Family of Chris Simon believes CTE played a role in his death

Chris Simon

Chris Simon, once one of the hockey's most feared enforcers, has died. He was 52. Simon (12) and Tampa Bay Lightning's Craig MacDonald watch a faceoff during the third period of an NHL hockey game on Feb. 21, 2008, in Uniondale, N.Y. Photo: Frank Franklin II/The Canadian Press.

The family of Chris Simon says the former NHL player died by suicide and blames CTE, a fatal disease brought on by repeated head trauma for his death.

“The family strongly believes and witnessed firsthand, that Chris struggled immensely from CTE which unfortunately resulted in his death,” said the statement from the family. “We are grieving with the loss of our son, brother, father, partner, teammate and friend.”

Simon, 52, was an Anishinaabe player who made three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals winning once with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996.

While Simon used his fists throughout his career and collected 1,824 penalty minutes, he could also put the puck in the net. Over his 782 game career including a stint in Europe, Simon scored 144 goals with 161 assists for 305 points.

News of Simon’s death reverberated around the hockey world.

“Our teammate and brother Chris Simon, gone far too soon. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time,” wrote the Calgary Flames, whom Simon played for when the team went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004.

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is linked to repeated blows to the head including concussions. Other NHL players who took their own lives at a young age also suffered from CTE including Bob Probert, Derek Boogaard.

The NHL, however, remains unconvinced.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called Simon’s death “tragic” and that, “On all these matters we wait to see what the medical experts tell us.” He didn’t address the statement from Simon’s family according to media reports.

A statement issued on March 19  only said “The National Hockey League mourns the passing of Chris Simon.”

Frank Seravalli, president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, wrote on X, formerly Twitter that he asked Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the NHL about the league and CTE.

According to the post, “Asked Bill Daly whether the #NHL’s viewpoint has changed with additional medical studies that show a definitive link between CTE and repeated blows to the head. “No,” Daly said. “I think the science is still lacking.”

Daniel Carcillo, who played for five NHL teams over his professional hockey career, was part of a class action lawsuit against the league over CTE and brain injuries. The lawsuit paid the 146 players involved approximately $22,000 each plus another $75,000 for medical expenses for players who tested positive for CTE. Simon was part of the lawsuit.

“Rest in peace Chris Simon and my condolences to his family and friends,” wrote Carcillo on X. “This is a stark reminder that a contributing factor to this tragedy was playing in a league that continues to deny a link between repetitive head trauma and neurodegenerative disease.”

Simon’s family said it won’t be releasing further information.

“The entire Wawa community is sharing in our grief,” the statement read. “We appreciate everyone who shares in our tragic loss.”

Chris Simon
Simon fighting Vancouver Canucks’ Wade Brookbank in 2006. Photo: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press.

The number of fights in the NHL has dropped considerably over the past few years as the league features more skilled players.

Lately, however, it’s been in the news as the media has hyped the play of New York Rangers rookie Matt Rempe, who in his first game in the NHL scored a goal – but who also fought four times in his first seven games.

Simon, drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1990, was suspended by the NHL eight times during his career for a combined 65 games.

He scored 10, 17 points and 191 penalty minutes in 75 playoff games.

The Michipioten First Nation in northern Ontario says a sacred fire is burning for Simon to “help him on his journey.”

“Share some good memories and have some good cries,” the post on Meta says. The fire will be burning in nearby Wawa until March 22.

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