Q & A Reid Simpson
Reid Simpson was drafted 72nd overall by the Flyers in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft and went on to play in 301 regular season games. He scored 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 points, racking up 838 penalty minutes in the process. He played for 8 NHL teams. He also played 2 years in Russia before retiring. Simpson tallied a total of 838 penatly minutes in 301 NHL games.
I would like to thank him for taking the time out of his busy schedule. I also like to thank srehm1 for his contributions.
Flin Flon is famous for Ken Baumgartner, Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach, Al Hamilton, and Gerry Hart. Was it naturally ingrained to play the tough, rugged and fighting style you are known for?
Yes. Growing up in a small town like Flin Flon, many of the players mentioned played that brand of rough and tumble hockey. I donít think anyone expected us to play that way. You saw it while growing up, and itís tough not to emulate that style. When I was 15-16 playing Junior hockey for the Bombers, we were playing against 19-20 year old guys. Thatís when I realized that I had to stick up for myself, or I was going to get pushed around and abused real quick. At that age, I was big for my size. Being competitive comes naturally when youíre constantly being challenged. I was effective when it came to winning physical battles in the corners. When youíre good at doing that, it also allows you more room on the ice. I remember everyone on the opposite team giving me more room after my first fight. I was a skilled player, so it provided me another dimension to add to my game. And it evolved from there.
Where you being constantly targeted by the opposing teams toughguys when you were playing in the WHL?
When I was 15/16, I was the young guy. I was the one going after them. I was the one looking for the toughest guy, and searching for the guy whom I have to prove myself to so that nobody else on the team would want to fight me after I beat this guy up. There was a proving ground at every level-I started early! By the time I was 18/19, I was the toughest guy in the league. My strategy was to look at every single guy who thought he was tough, and Iím going to beat him before he even has a chance to think about fighting me. That really helped eliminate a lot of guys who wanted to fight me. By the time I was 18/19, I was fighting guys like Darin Kimble, Tony Twist, and Jim McKenzie. When youíre fighting players like these guys and doing well, then youíre are regarded as one of them. My goal was to get to the point where nobody wanted to fight me.
You get to the next level-pro hockey, and you start the process all over again. When I finished Juniors, I was also fortunate enough to play on the top lines and get some power-play time. This allowed me to get drafted in the higher rounds-hence it was quicker for me to put my name on the map.
You give a lot of credit to coach Rick Wilson in developing you in becoming a well-rounded player during your time at Prince Albert. Name a few others (coaches or teammates) who you believe deserve credit?
There are guys I credit who go back even before Juniors. Brad Snyder was a entry-level coach who helped me a lot. He had us going to the Western Championships when were a team that probably should have never been there. We practiced like Junior teams. They drilled the same fundamentals you learn at the Junior level hard into us at an early age. By the time I reached the Major Junior level in the WHL, I had coaches like Rick Wilson and Terry Simpson who looked at me, and said I have the ability to play pro hockey some day. They knew how to take what you need to know and apply it, so youíll be ready when you get to the pro level. Other coaches who helped me at the pro level were Kevin Maxwell and Mike Eakes. Robbie Ftorek and Jacques Lemaire were legendary coaches who helped me become successful. At that time, they were around 22 teams in the league. During practice, there was a separation of players who practiced on the ice-haves and have nots. Teams structured their camps this way. The NHL guys had their practice, then everyone else practiced by themselves-the guys who were trying to make the team. Most of the NHL guys didnít want anyone to take their job. There was definitely a real separation. As I got older and more teams were introduced, I felt the brotherhood extended more to the minor league players. I was very fortunate to have the luxury of having such great coaches throughout my career. I was also very lucky to have players like Bill Guerin, Scott Stevens, Neal Broten, Doug Gilmore and Stephane Roche who treated me like I was part of the team, and looked after and took care of me. They all gave me a chance and treated me with respect to be part of the team. Players werenít making $5-$6 mil a year. Guys were making around $110-$200,000 then. I remember early in my NHL career when Rick Tocchet was making $110,000 and I signed for $125,000. Salaries were unpredictable during that time. So, I credit a lot of players as well. I practiced the same thing when I was a NHL vet. I invited young players in with open arms.
Can you recall what it was like being a teammate of Darin Kimble?
We were roommates, and he was probably the toughest guy in the WHL during that time. He was one of the nastiest guys to play against. He also had some very good skills. I saw him and Ken Baumgartner graduate to the professional level, and that gave me a huge confidence boost. We fought each other in camp, as well as we shared the workload when it came to fighting. We fought a lot. Darin was one of those guys who I constantly messed around with. We would get into all out legitimate fights, even during practice.
How did you approach each fight?
I must have around 250 or so fights in 4 years of Junior alone. So, when I made it to the AHL, I have already fought many of the same guys multiple times. During my entire career, I never went into one fight thinking I couldnít beat the guy up. I fought every tough guy who wore a pair of skates. I didnít think I was unbeatable and I didnít disrespect anyone. My approach was to go into every fight thinking whole-heartedly, I was going to win that fight. If I thought someone beat me, then I couldnít wait to fight that same player again. That was his minute or day, and mine was coming either tomorrow or even the next period. There was never an easy fight when it came to NHL fights.
I was never one who watched videos of other guys fighting. The reality is every guy fights differently against other guys. I would occasionally check out a video. But, you quickly learn if a guy is a puncher or a grabber, and if he threw only left, or right, or both. If Iím fighting a lefty like Tie Domi, and I know he likes to throw lefts, my attitude was Iím going to throw rights and try to go toe to toe with him. Look at Tony Twist. How many lefts did he throw? You can probably count the total on his left hand. He didnít throw lefts. When I fought him, I never had to worry about him throwing lefts. But, I still had to worry about him KOing me with that right! If you tried to sneak a left in on him, I had to worry about that right coming around. Those types of things you had to decide. If youíre winning the fight with your right, then thereís no reason to switch to your left.
Name some of your most memorable moments, favorite and not-so- favorite, that occurred during your Junior career?
One of several favorite moments was when I finally realized I made the Prince Albert team. I remember playing for New Westminster when I was 16 years old. My skills werenít good enough to play in the WHL at 16 years old. Iím really glad it worked out the way it did because it simply made me a better player, and I was ready at age 17 to play in Prince Albert. I had a chance to play in Saskatoon-the same year Twist and Chase started playing there. If I had picked Saskatoon, who knows what would have happened. My first day, I fought Rich Pilon, who went on to have a great career with the Islanders. I remember I beat him up pretty good in training camp. I know I made an impression and I had an instant reputation right then. I was also playing on a line with Jason Smart and Darin Kimble, and we were dominating. I was playing against the opposing teams top lines-Joe Sakic as an example. My last year of Junior, I was playing on a line with Mike Modano. That was where I really developed as a hockey player. We didnít win a championship. There was really never any one big moment.
You spent 3 seasons with the Hershey Bears. What were your favorite moments?
Every year, something good seemed to happen. One highlight was actually making the club. Another highlight was getting called up to play 1 game for the Flyers. I remember constantly asking myself if I was good enough to play in the NHL. I recall playing 30 games and getting into 30 fights. Then I was sent packing back to Juniors. I was wondering what would it take! I knew I had to fight. But, I needed to do more. During the early 90ís, teams always had 3 or 4 tough guys. I knew I had to keep fighting to make myself stand out, but also improve overall as a player to have a shot. Coach Eaves showed me this program that involved improving my power skating that I utilized during the summer. I learned a lot about work ethic, and what level of dedication it took for me to get to the NHL.
Describe what it was like playing minor league hockey in PA during that time?
Hershey is a great hockey town. They could easily pull in 10,000 people a game. Like Hershey, playing pro hockey in any small town is one of the best places to play. Hershey has a great history of hockey that molded well with players who were fresh out of Juniors.
Did you have any fights from the Juniors or the AHL that carry over all the way to the NHL?
Yes. Some of the guys I played against: Jim McKenzie, Jeff Odgers, Twist, and Chase. Guys I fought all the time in Junior and have graduated to the pros. I wanted to fight guys who I havenít seen, like Tie Domi-from different Junior leagues.
You faced Garrett Burnett 3 times in one game when you were with the Admirals. Do you recall the circumstances?
Yeah. I played 8 years in the NHL at the time. I was traded from Montreal to the Predators. Because I havenít played in a few weeks, they assigned me to the Admirals for conditioning. Burnett was a big kid who was looking to make a name for himself. So, I obliged. He was tough. He did well. I think he cut me open in the first fight, and then I fought him again about 10 minutes later. I had a NHL job. I didnít have to fight him. I did it to get my legs and timing back. I know a lot of guys in my position wouldnít have fought him. It wasnít like I was sitting in the dressing room before the game and I was scouting out the toughest guy on the opposing team. I just wanted to go play my game, and if I have to fight, Iíll fight. If itís appropriate at that time, then itís not a problem.
You had a few training camp battles with Mike Peluso early on in your career.
I was in New Jersey, trying to make the team. Mike was the HW of the team, so I was just trying to make the cut. I just wanted to make the team and get a job. I did really well. That was one of the times where I fought the toughest guy on the team who just won the Stanley Cup, and I did really well, this is the job I want. I just have to be a better player.
Mike did say he was surprised to see you sent down. He thought you would have made the cut.
I did eventually make the club. So, it worked. Mike did a tremendous job as far as doing what he did. He was one of the best guys of that era. He knew exactly what he had to do every night for his teammates. He was a huge intrical part of that 1995 Stanley cup team. Maybe not on the scoreboard, but that line he played on was a huge part of that team.
You had a great tilt with Probert when you were with New Jersey. Can you elaborate on that?
Fighting Probie goes right back to my philosophy I mentioned previously; fight the biggest, baddest toughest guy. I already had 15-20 fights under my belt that year. Chicago wasnít in our division, so I havenít seen him yet. I got the best of Cam Russell earlier in the game. Cam knew who I was, and he knew what I was all about. Later in the game, I remember Cam going back to the bench and talking to Probie. He was kind of egging Probie on a little, saying how this guy wants to fight you, and so forth. So, I remember standing at Center Ice, and I was saying to myself-ďThis is it. This is the test. Youíre going to fight the toughest guy who ever played hockey. And if you do well, then youíre legitimate.Ē And I did do well. I know he hit me pretty hard. I can tell Probert was really angry when I fought him. I knew I had to get into the angry mode real quick when I was ready to fight. And Probert was in the mode. I remember looking at him before the fight and I was saying to myself that this guy wants to kill me. And I was thinking the same thing to myself. And Probert was really good at creating that anger quickly. I remember when I was playing in Chicago as a teammate of his, I could see it when I was on the bench. He was going to kill someone on his next shift. I was like, ďWhoa! Probieís mad! This guy better watch out!Ē
What was it like playing alongside Probert when you became a Blackhawk?
It was great. I loved Probie. He was one of the hardest working guys I ever spent time with. He and I were roommates. Off the ice, heís one the friendliest and most down to earth guys youíll ever meet. When he straps the skates on and heís in a competitive situation, heíll do anything to win.
I believe Probert and Mark Janssens were your line mates?
It was great. At that time, we were one of the toughest teams ever in the NHL. You can throw in the Broadstreet Bullies into that group as well.
I recall when we were playing Colorado. They were spanking us on the scoreboard. We were all sitting on the bench yelling, ďSend out Probie! Kill someone!Ē I remember skating up to Jeff Odgers and he looked at me and asked, ďWhatís going on? Are you going to do anything?Ē I said, ďYeah. We have seven guys who all want to come out and fight. So, you better drop the mitts. If you donít, Iím going to kill you anyways.Ē Thatís how that BlackHawks team was like. We had so many tough guys that you could literally fight 6 or 7 other guys before you even got to a real HW.
You also had Ryan Vandenbussche. You had some great guys to go to war with every night.
Yeah, it was great. It was getting toward the end of the year, and we signed some more toughguys. I was like ďGeezes! Whoís going to score the goals?Ē We had some good players.
Did you feel you finally had a home with the Devils?
Yes. I felt that way with the Hawks and the Devils, I felt at home and I was a real significant part of the team. Even with St. Louis, I felt the same way. My whole goal for the last 5 years was to just do everything I could to stay in the league. So, that was more of a priority. When the time came when I was signing one year contracts, it was a little rough. That was when teams were slowly cutting their rosters down to maybe having 1 or 2 tough guys. My current teams GM would call another teams GM, and put in a good word in for me if he planned on letting me go. To me, that was overwhelmingly surprising. I look back at my career and I played for 7-8 different teams. That was expected for the type of player I was. Sometimes, players like me just simply donít fit on certain teams. It wasnít because I didnít do what they wanted. It was simply because I just didnít fit their current roster and system.
How tough was it being traded to Chicago?
That was the first time I was traded where it wasnít easy to deal with. But, I was going to a team who had a lot of other players like myself. And they played me a lot, and I did well. Things worked out for me, and I have no regrets whatsoever.
You had a great marathon bout with the McSorley in '98.
Yeah, that was a good one. I remember I was hitting him so many times that I was wondering why I couldnít knock him down! I was hitting him as hard as I could. Marty is a legend. He and I have actually become good friends over the years. Heís a great guy.
Besides being known as a player with endless stamina, would calling him a "brawler" be an accurate description of his fighting style?
Thatís definitely his style. He likes to wear you down. Also, Marty would do anything to win! Thatís what I loved about him. He would do anything for his teammates. I think he received a raw deal from the Brashear incident. I donít think Martyís intention was to go out and chop the guys head off. I know what Marty was trying to do. The end result was a pure unfortunate accident. Marty felt like his team was being disrespected, and he was trying to get even. And thatís the type of player Brashear is anyways.
What are your thoughts regarding Stu Grimson?
Heís a really educated and smart guy. Heís a good guy. He knew what he had to do to stay in the NHL. He knew what he had to do to become a better player. When he came into Chicago, I saw him evolve into a more efficient player. You didnít want to be on the ice with him. If he could build some steam, he could hurt you with a hit. That's what he did, among other things, to build his value to the team.
One of my personal favorite fights of yours took place on March 3 of Ď98, when your Blackhawks played in St. Louis. Chicago was up 2-1. You had a fight with Tony Twist. You lined-up opposite Kelly Chase during the face-off. You were initially tangled up with Chase, and that's when Twist skated over to challenge you. Tony dropped his gloves first. There was about a 3 second delay before you decided to oblige him. Coach Craig Hartsburgh was cheering, applauding and praising you near the bench at the end of the fight.
See Hartsburgh cheering me on like that is a very rare thing, even back then. Craig was the kind of guy who gave me free reign to do what I wanted to do. He also knew that I would do anything he asked of me. I fought to help the team. It was to change the momentum of the game. It was never about me personally. Players and teammates respect the fact youíre out there doing that, putting your body on the line for them. Chase and Twist were always a double-team duo. Chase was trying to goad me into a fight. I was telling Chase, ďIf I fight you, then I have to fight Twist next.Ē Iíd rather just fight the toughest, most feared guy. Whatís the point in first fighting Chase, then Twist? Iím just going to go ahead and fight Twist and get it over with. Itís about self-preservation. I always wanted to fight the toughest guy first. Most of the time, the second toughest guy didnít bother to fight you then.
When an up-and-coming tough guy came to talk to you and asked you for advice, what did you say to him?
I was asked that all the time. I give the same advice: The only way to learn how to fight is to get in one. You learn real quick. During Junior, you analyze what you did wrong in a fight more than you do in the pros. You donít know what you will do wrong until you actually get into a fight. When someone asked me what theyíre doing wrong, I asked him ďWho are you fighting?Ē for starters. What does that guy do? You canít teach someone what it feels like to get punched in the face without getting into an actual fight. You can suck it up if you have a broken nose. But, when you get tattooed on the chin hard enough to make your knees buckle, you canít will yourself to stand up when that happens. Youíre fighting guys who have the same attitude as you do. Youíre punching them as hard as you can. Youíre waiting for that one he canít handle. You can punch guys in a lot of places and it seems like it doesnít do much. Over the years, I talked with guys who I had fights with, and they tell you thatís the hardest they have even been hit in their life, but they still didnít go down. I always tried to hit them even harder the next time I fight them. Maybe in a different spot!
Youíre the one who said,Ē You see his face? Punch it!Ē
Yes. Thatís exactly it. There are not a lot of secrets to it. You might grab a guy here or there. Thatís the bottom line. Donít get punched in the face, and punch him in the face as many times as you can. If you want to win a hockeyfight, then you have to punch him in the face. You do that 3 or 4 good times, then youíre probably going to win a fight. We would all see each other at times during the off-season. We share stories and have a few beers. Come September, we are back at slapping each other around.
What building was the toughest to play in and why?
I always loved playing in MSG. It was the craziest and most rambunctious place I have ever played in. The fans were right on top of you. Places like the Old Garden and Montreal Forum were also tough places to play. My ideas of ďtoughĒ places to play were places like Florida or Carolina, places where there werenít many fans attending the games. To me, cities like that were tougher to play-in versus the arenas where the fans were crazy and vocal. That happening, electrified the atmosphere and made it exciting to play in. There were also tough teams to play against. These teams played real solid defense and would not allow you many scoring chances.
Whatís the craziest fan encounter youíve ever had?
Not really. For the most part, fans have been good to me. I played on so many teams, that one minute they hate you, while the next they are cheering for you. I always appreciated the fans. They paid their money, so they can say and do whatever they want. The fans that always bothered me were the ones who believe theyíre allowed to be in your life after paying. During the game, it never bothered me when fans said what they wanted. Itís when they would wait outside in the parking lot after the game and push the limit. That always made me wonder if they take their issues home with them, and they donít do anything else other than think about what they want to say the next time they see me. I would sometimes run into these people in an environment outside the hockey rink, and they think they know you as a person because they watched you play hockey. It makes me wonder how far these kinds of people will take it. They stay up all night, get on these internet chat rooms and take things real personal. I think its great that fans who are heavily involved in pro sports, spend a lot of time on these chat boards. But, when they take it a personal level, that is just going too far. Now that Iím retired, I actually had nothing but positive feedback from fans.
Do you ever go any of the hockey fight websites and read what people submit to the forums?
Not really. But, I think its great people are involved. Iíve been reading a lot about the Patrick Kane incident. People literally donít know what happened and they have their opinion. Thatís life.
Who is the craziest player you've ever been with on the ice?
If were talking about fighters, Marty McSorley was such a competitor that sometimes he would forget itís just a game. Marty was one of those guys who you didnít know what he was going to do when he turned it on when we where on the ice.
What about Link Gaetz?
Well, Link was just out there. I didnít play a lot if games with Link. He was in and out of the league pretty quickly. Maybe because of his unpredictability. I donít think his problems stem from hockey. That was more of a personality issue.
Who were the best agitators during the era you played in?
I thought Barnaby was really good at it. Thereís also Kirk Maltby, Claude Lemieux, and Kris Draper. If you look at each of these guys, they all had or currently have great careers. I tended not to listen to guys too much. You canít let the stuff say go to your head. That was their way of playing the game. If I got into a fight with them, it would only make it worse. All of their yapping didnít get to me. It was when they started scoring goals, and then I would try to intervene.
If you were the commissioner, what changes would you implement to better the game?
Man, there are so many! I think the on-ice product is solid. Amend the instigator rule to a degree where the players can do a little more policing on the ice. Itís the political side of hockey needs addressing. The business side of hockey has a long way to go before that is considered good. One of things is how the league supports the top teams, while the bottom teams suffer financially. Itís probably going to be put back on the players, saying how theyíre greedy and how they want too much money. Itís a common misconception that the players are considered greedy. To the contrary, from the time I have played until now, thereís been so much of taking away from the players and going to the owners. And this is going to continue to be a problem as we move forward.
Another thing Iíve seen is that the league is trying to take as many decisions away from the on-ice officials as possible. When it comes to penalties and that once in a while gray area call, the use of discretion by the ref is absent.
The one thing I donít like is the scheduling. Thereís no reason why a team like the Red Wings or BlackHawks need to play teams in their division 6 times, while they will only play the Leafs, Rangers, or other East Conference teams maybe once, twice or even not at all.
I agree. The league was trying to create rivalries. Itís not working anymore, and it needs to be changed again. Everyone has an opinion. Iím sure there are Leafs fans that donít want to see teams like Phoenix or LA. They rather see Montreal or Ottawa every night. The NHL has 30 teams, who all play 82 games. Iím sure there is some flexibility that will allow it.
What about the instigator rule?
It needs amending. I donít think getting rid of it completely will have an effect. Youíre just going to see guys turtle all the time. But in todayís game and the playerís mentality, the fighting just isnít there as much as when I was in the league. Back in the day, if you didnít stand up for yourself after you did something; your teammates would look at you with disgust when you skated back to the bench. Then they would want to fight you! Now, they pat you on the back when you draw a penalty when you did something and you donít fight. They commend you, saying ďGood job!Ē What did you think would happen after you spear a guy? Now, thatís the norm for many teams in the league today. The rules are geared toward preventing any retaliation regardless of what caused it in the first place. I would love to see the rule removed. But, players would just find away around it. If a guy spears another player in the back of the legs when the refs arenít looking, the offending player will simply turtle. And now, your teammates wonít feel any ill will toward you for not standing up for yourself. Thatís the mentality of todayís game. Players now donít have to be held accountable. Spear a guy, and draw a penalty when someone comes after you. Thatís considered honorable. Teams today maybe have only 1 guy who has the enforcer job. That role is slowly disappearing. The league is slowly trying to phase fighting out of the game.
Last edited by Colt Seavers; 08-27-2009 at 05:25 AM.