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Examiner
  • Concussions ending career of popular Mavs defenseman Simoes

  • A few moments after the Missouri Mavericks take their 2012-13 team photo on center ice at the Independence Events Center, veteran tough guy David Simoes skates off to locker room, battling his emotions.

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  • A few moments after the Missouri Mavericks take their 2012-13 team photo on center ice at the Independence Events Center, veteran tough guy David Simoes skates off to locker room, battling his emotions.
    It's a bittersweet moment, that packs the punch of a Simoes right hook, as the Mavericks defenseman deals with the reality of his six-year CHL career coming to an end following his second major concussion of the season.
    “I knew that this might be my last season,” Simoes, 28, said as he packed his gear into a large bag to carry back to his home in Blue Springs, “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 mugged 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 cheap shot, Simoes suffered severe headaches. He couldn't be near light or noise, which kept him from playing with his children, 16-month old Peter and 3-year-old Lucy, and forced him to miss countless games.
    He couldn't skate or even ride an exercise bike.
    “It was tough,” he said. “(My 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 I had this season, but it was the seventh of my career.
    “Doctors told me the eighth might be life-changing, so I decided to retire.”
    He wanted to tell his teammates about his decision, and he did at a recent Monday morning practice session.
    “For a class act like Dave to not go out on his own terms just isn't right,” Mavericks defenseman Dave Pszenyczny said 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.
    “We can use Dave's retirement as motivation. We can go out and win it for him, because he's always going to be with us in spirit. He's just such a class act and a great dad and husband. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know him, after playing against him.”
    Veteran tough guy Colt King echoes 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.
    Page 2 of 3 - “But he breaks the stereotype when you get to know him. He is such a gentleman and a great dad and husband. And it's a shame more people don't see that side of him. Any coach or player should be honored to be associated with David. He left everything out on the ice and I hope he can be proud of that.
    "He's going to miss the game and we're going to miss him, but what an honor to call him my teammate. There aren't many men like David Simoes in the CHL."
    The past two seasons, Simoes' peers have voted him the Toughest Player in the CHL. He placed second in the voting this season, despite missing 26 games with the two concussions. Simoes, who organized blood drives and worked with the Community Blood Center, also was one of five finalists for the 2013 CHL Man of the Year award given to the player who best exemplifies leadership and community service.
    “You love him as a teammate,” rookie goaltender Mike Clemente said, “because he takes care of everything out on the ice. He would never take a cheap shot, or go after anyone who didn't deserve it. But if someone messes with one of us, you can bet Simmers will get after them.”
    When asked what Simoes meant to the Mavericks over the past two seasons, coach Scott Hillman simply asked, “How much time do you have?
    “Simmers came to the team at a time last year when we were struggling, and the effort he gave every day rubbed off on everyone in that locker room. We needed a big piece to the puzzle, and Simmers was it.
    “I've been involved in this league since 1999 and I don't know of a player who has the universal respect of everyone like Simmers. When he fought, he fought you face to face.
    “He had class and dignity. He'd knock you down, help you up and tap you on the head and go on and play the game. He was old-school tough, and you love to have a guy like that on your team.”
    On Friday morning, following a play day for Peter and Lucy at Paradise Park in Lee's Summit, Mary brings the kids home for a quick bite to eat and a much needed nap.
    Simoes leads the youngster in a dinner table prayer while Mary talks about the side of her husband most people never see.
    “He's the greatest guy,” said Mary, who met Simoes while he was playing in New Mexico and she was a student in St. Cloud, Minn. "My sister is married to (former Rapid City defenseman) Conrad Reeder, and she told me about this guy I had to meet.”
    Page 3 of 3 - They met, and as they say in Hollywood, the rest is history.
    “We've been married four years, moved eight times and lived in seven states,” Mary said as Simoes watched over the kids during a noisy lunch. “We want to make this our last move for a while.
    “We love this area and want to call it home. We have made so many wonderful friends and feel like this is our home.”
    And the Mavericks are going to do everything possible to keep Simoes involved with the team.
    “We don't have any permanent plans, but we are going to keep Simmers entrenched with the team,” Hillman said. “We just wish it would be in a uniform.”
    So does the man who brought a toughness and class to a young hockey team that will never be forgotten.
    “It's going to be great to spend more time with Mary and the kids,” Simoes said, “but I'm going to miss it. It's kind of funny, in the summer I'll just get up and think, ‘A nice bump or bruise or stitch would feel pretty good right now.’
    “I think you had to play the game to understand how I felt. It just went by so fast. I'm proud of every part of my career, and now I'm looking forward to the next chapter.”
    Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC
     

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