NEW YORK - Chris Simon of the New York Islanders was suspended Sunday for an NHL-record 25 games, and will miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs as punishment for his two-handed stick attack to the face of Ryan Hollweg.
New York Islanders' Chris Simon looks on from the bench during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo, N.Y. in this Jan. 1, 2007 file photo. Simon was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday, March 9, 2007, for his stick-swinging hit to the face of New York Rangers center Ryan Hollweg. (AP Photo/Don Heupel)
Simon will miss New York's final 15 regular-season contests and the entire postseason, if the Islanders reach the playoffs. If the Islanders play fewer than 10 playoff games this year, the suspension will carry over to next season.
The ban is the longest in terms of games missed in NHL history. Marty McSorley was suspended 23 games in February 2000 for knocking out Donald Brashear with a stick-swinging hit. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stretched that punishment to one year, and McSorley never played in the league again.
"The National Hockey League will not accept the use of a stick in the manner and fashion in which Mr. Simon used his Thursday night," league disciplinarian Colin Campbell said in a statement. "As a consequence of his actions, Mr. Simon has forfeited the privilege of playing in an NHL game again this season, regardless of how many games the Islanders ultimately play."
The Islanders are seventh in the Eastern Conference, three points above the playoff cutoff.
Tampa Bay's Gordie Dwyer also received a 23-game suspension in September 2000 for abusing officials and coming out of the penalty box to fight in an exhibition game against Washington.
Campbell announced the punishment one day after holding a hearing at the league office in New York. Simon was banned indefinitely Friday, following his vicious hit in retaliation for a hard check by the New York Rangers' Hollweg on Thursday night.
Based on the one-year, $1 million contract Simon signed with the Islanders before this season, he will lose at least $80,200.
This is Simon's sixth NHL suspension and the league's longest since Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi was sidelined 13 regular-season games and seven in the playoffs for his blindside punch to the head of Colorado's Steve Moore in March 2004. Bertuzzi wasn't reinstated until 17 months later, after the yearlong lockout.
"There is absolutely no place in hockey for what I did," Simon said in a statement released by the team during Saturday night's 5-2 victory over Washington. "What you saw Thursday is not the person, player and competitor that I am. I know my teammates and opponents over my 14 years in the NHL understand that."
Simon said he was diagnosed Friday with a concussion as a result of Hollweg's hit that drove him into the boards. His inability to fly made it necessary for Campbell to come to New York for the hearing instead of holding it in Toronto.
"I do not remember much about Thursday's incident," Simon said in a statement. "When I saw the tape on Friday morning, it explained a lot to me when I saw the look on my face after being hit into the boards. I was completely out of it. When I met with the media about 30 minutes later, I still was not feeling well."
Simon said he still felt symptoms Saturday morning when he went to New York for the 90-minute hearing.
"I need to make clear that this is not justification for the danger I put Ryan Hollweg in and the damage I have caused the game," Simon said in the statement. "Since Ryan is thankfully OK, what hurts the most is knowing my actions will result in me losing the privilege of being in the Islanders lineup."
The 35-year-old left wing apologized to Hollweg in the statement and said he hopes to reach out to him soon.
Simon was given a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure when he got up from ice after being crunched by Hollweg against the boards. Simon took a few strides toward Hollweg, and caught him with a two-handed swing of his stick that connected on the chin and neck.
Hollweg took a few stitches in the chin, but was not seriously hurt. He was in the lineup Saturday for the Rangers' loss at Pittsburgh.
The NHL punishment might be only the beginning of Simon's troubles. A spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Friday that "no decision has been reached" about whether to bring charges against Simon, but that prosecutors would review the tape.
McSorley and Bertuzzi both were charged by Vancouver authorities for their attacks. Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to causing bodily harm, and McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon for hitting Brashear.
Simon was ejected from the Islanders' 2-1 loss to the Rangers with 6:31 remaining in what was a tie game. The ensuing major power play resulted in Petr Prucha's decisive goal.
"Chris Simon has played a major role in our success this season and we will miss his presence in our lineup," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said in a statement released Sunday. "His regret is clearly evident in the statement he released last night. Our entire organization supports Chris every step of the way."
Simon has been suspended four other times for violent on-ice acts, and received a three-game ban in 1997 after directing a racial slur toward player Mike Grier, who is black.
Brashear, now with the Washington Capitals, said after Saturday night's game against the Islanders that "things happen sometimes."
"I know what type of guy Chris is, and he's an honest guy. I saw the hit he took, and he lost control a little bit too much, and that's what it's all about," Brashear said.
"That's where it gets dangerous. A guy loses control, and you don't know what's going to happen. We try to stay away from those, and I'm sure after it happened, he looked at himself and said, 'What the hell am I doing?' It looked like he meant to do something else. Sometimes, guys have to pay the price, and I guess he's going to be one of them."