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Chris Simon, Stanley Cup champion with Avalanche, dies at 52

Chris Simon, one of the toughest players of his generation and a Stanley Cup champion with the Colorado Avalanche, died Monday. He was 52.

Simon played 782 games in the NHL with seven teams, including four seasons with Quebec/Colorado. The cause of death has not been reported.

“Chris was a great guy, a beloved teammate and an important part of our first championship season,” Avalanche president and former teammate Joe Sakic said in a statement. “He was a really good hockey player who could score goals, was a big presence in the dressing room and was the first person to stand up and defend his teammates. Off the ice, he was an unbelievable guy and a caring father, son, brother and friend. He will be sorely missed.”

A Wawa, Ontario native, Simon was drafted by Philadelphia but became a player to be named later in one of the most famous trades in NHL history that sent Eric Lindros to the Flyers and eight players in total, including Peter Forsberg, to the Nordiques. His first season as a full-time NHL player was 1995-96 when he had 16 goals and 34 points in 64 games and appeared in 12 playoff games as the Avalanche made its first title run.

He was traded to the Washington Capitals after that season with Curtis Leschyshyn in a deal that netted the Avalanche two draft picks, one that became Scott Parker, and Keith Jones. Simon had a well-earned reputation as one of the top pugilists of his era, racking up more than 100 fighting majors in his NHL career. Simon’s 250 penalty minutes for the Avalanche in 1995-96 are the sixth-most in a single season in franchise history.

Simon also reached the Stanley Cup Final with the Capitals in 1998 and Calgary Flames in 2004. He finished his hockey career with five seasons in the KHL, including a three-year run with Chekhov Vityaz when he racked up 403 penalty minutes in 103 games.

The NHL sent out a statement Tuesday night acknowledging Simon’s death that referenced his reputation as a “fierce competitor and teammate.”

“Our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends and former teammates,” the statement read.

While Simon earned praise from coaches and teammates for his willingness to stand up for teammates, he was also suspended eight times. Two of them were among the longest for on-ice discipline in league history.

Simon was suspended for 25 games in March 2007 for swinging his stick, baseball-style at the head of the Rangers’ Ryan Hollweg. He was suspended for 30 games after stomping on Pittsburgh’s Jarkko Ruutu near the team benches in December 2007.

Simon talked openly about dealing with substance abuse addiction during his junior career in Ontario. He credited Ted Nolan, who coached him with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL and later with the New York Islanders in the NHL, with helping him battle those issues.

According to a story in The National Post, he filed for bankruptcy in 2017, with a doctor testifying that Simon had symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, and suffered from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and arthritis to his shoulder, hand, knees, back and neck.

Simon attributed the CTE issues to “significant brain trauma” and claimed he was unable to work because of the injuries he sustained during his hockey career. In that same year, Simon was also one of more than 100 former players who joined a lawsuit aimed at the NHL and how it handled concussions. The lawsuit was settled in 2019.

“Chris was a great teammate, linemate and friend,” Peter Bondra, a teammate of Simon’s in Washington said on X, the social media application formerly known as Twitter. “Always kind. Have a lot of great memories with him, Rest in peace, Si.”

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