Editor’s note: The Examiner will be announcing members of the Missouri Mavericks’ Top 10 all-time team over the next week. Each sports section, through Saturday, will feature a member of the team, as voted on by fans on the Mavericks home web page. Former CHL award-winning defenseman David Simoes, who had to leave the game he loved because of a possible life-changing concussion, is featured today.
By Bill Althaus
David Simoes was voted by his Central Hockey League peers as the league’s toughest player in both years he starred for the Missouri Mavericks.
The gritty defenseman was a finalist for the CHL Man of the Year, and he made an impact in the locker room and on the ice that will never be forgotten by his teammates and the Orange Army. Simoes is the latest member of the Mavericks’ all-time Top 10 team, as voted by fans on the team website.
It’s been said there are no tears in baseball – and the same goes for the rough ‘n’ tumble world of professional hockey – but there were some misty eyes back in 2013 when Simoes skated off the ice for the last time following a team photo session.
He was leaving the game he loved because of a concussion that doctors said could be life-altering. As he took off his uniform for the last time, the tougher-than-leather veteran battled his emotions.
“I knew that this might be my last season,” Simoes told The Examiner then, “but I thought I'd at least get to finish out this season and help the boys in the playoffs.”
That dream came to a crashing reality when he was hit from behind Feb. 15 in a home game against the Bloomington Blaze. His head struck the glass, then the ice, and he lay motionless while trainer Wes Fillingame and an on-site physician rushed to his aid.
Following the hit, Simoes suffered severe headaches. He couldn't be near light or noise, which kept him from playing with his children, then 1-year-old Peter and 3-year-old Lucy, and forced him to miss numerous games.
He couldn't skate or even ride an exercise bike.
“It was tough,” he said. “(Wife) Mary had to take care of the kids while I was basically locked in a dark room. The second concussion was a lot worse than the first one … but it was the seventh of my career.
“Doctors told me the eighth might be life-changing, so I decided to retire.”
Telling his teammates about his decision was difficult.
“For a class act like Dave to not go out on his own terms just isn't right,” Mavericks defenseman Dave Pszenyczny said then with a touch of sadness in his voice. “I knew he was thinking about retiring, but he was so excited about this year's team and our chances of making a deep run in the playoffs.
“I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know him, after playing against him.”
Veteran tough guy Colt King echoed those sentiments.
"I am so honored to have played with David here with the Mavericks,” King said, “along with playing with him a short time in Rapid City. When you think of your stereotypical tough hockey guy, he comes to mind. He is physical, and when you are his teammate, you know he's always going to have your back.”
Today, team president and general manager Brent Thiessen points to the impact Simoes had on his team.
“David was the easiest guy in the league to root for,” Thiessen said with a touch of emotion in his voice. “He was an underdog. He wasn’t the biggest guy on the ice, but he was the toughest. He wasn’t afraid of anyone, and he was always there to defend a teammate.
“And what a great father and husband. He made an impact on our team and in the community that is still being felt today. He brought a lot of energy to the ice every time he skated, and we miss him – we miss him so much.”
Simoes is now working as a purchasing manager for a Charlotte, N.C., company that builds saw mills. He’s only been on the ice once since he retired, and he said by phone that he misses the team and Independence.
“Oh my gosh, I miss everyone there so much,” said Simoes, who along with his wife Mary recently welcomed the newest member of the Simoes family into the world, Bernadette, two months ago. “I keep up with the team … and I’m really excited about (new) Coach (Richard) Matvichuk.
“He sounds like the type of coach I’d like to play for. I have heard a lot about him, and I think this is the year the Mavericks are going to give the fans a championship.”
When asked about being named to the team’s All-Time Top 10 team, Simoes paused for a moment.
“Gosh, I want to say the right thing because this is such a great honor,” he said. “I was only in Missouri two years of the six years I played in the CHL, and they were the best two years of my life. I loved the team, the coaches, the front office – Brent is a genius.
“Now that I’m in the business world, I appreciate him even more. He has to be the most successful GM in all of minor league hockey. And he did a lot for me and my family, which I am so grateful for.
“My only regrets are the way it all ended and that we couldn’t give the fans a championship. But I think they’ll get it this year, and they deserve it.
“I just want to thank them for voting for me. Since I am no longer around the game, this really means the world to me. Thank you so much.”