By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on January 26, 2024.
TORONTO – The Wayne Train has made its final stop.
After 15 hard-nosed NHL seasons where he filled the net and threw plenty of fists, Wayne Simmonds has called time on his playing career.
The 35-year-old spoke to The Canadian Press on Friday ahead of the Hockey Diversity Alliance’s first-ever WinterFest event scheduled for Feb. 3 in Toronto.
With three kids under the age of five – his wife, Crystal, gave birth to the couple’s first son two months ago – he has a lot on his plate.
Getting one more NHL shot isn’t among the long list of priorities.
“I haven’t officially announced my retirement, but I’m done,” said Simmonds, who played his final three seasons with the Maple Leafs. “I had a great career. It was the best time I’ve ever had in my life.
“Right now, it’s family time.”
Simmonds put up 263 goals, 526 points and 1,313 penalty minutes in 1,037 games with six teams. He added 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) and 122 penalty minutes in 53 playoff appearances.
The Toronto native played his first three years with the Los Angeles Kings after being selected in the second round of the 2007 NHL draft, but made his mark over eight seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers.
One of the league’s premier power forwards during that era, Simmonds scored 28 or more goals five times, including a career-high 32 in 2015-16. Never afraid to drop the gloves, the bruising winger also had a career-high 147 penalty minutes that season.
Simmonds went on to have short stints with Nashville, Buffalo and New Jersey before signing in Toronto ahead of the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign.
“Nice to be able to play at home,” he said. “It was nice to be able to have my two little girls watch me play. They’re from Toronto, they’re born in Toronto, they’re gonna be raised in Toronto.”
Simmonds, however, wishes things had turned out differently on the ice. He played 72 times in 2021-22, but suited up for just 18 games last season in a trying year that included getting placed on waivers.
“From the playing aspect, it wasn’t what I hoped,” said Simmonds, who registered 27 points and 190 penalty minutes in 128 contests with Toronto. “At the same time, I’m still grateful to the organization for allowing me to put on the Maple Leaf.
“That’s an iconic jersey. It’s something that I’ll never forget.”
The HDA, which is not affiliated with the NHL, is holding WinterFest at Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods on Feb. 3 to highlight “the importance of diversity and inclusion in hockey.”
Set to coincide with the league’s all-star festivities in the city, the event is slated to include a celebrity hockey game, youth competitions and a skills showcase.
“It’s gonna be something special,” said Simmonds, a founding HDA member. “We want to showcase what we’ve been able to do the last three years. We want to show the unconventional ways that we’ve been able to reach the communities that we’ve reached.”
Looking back on what would turn out to be his final NHL season, Simmonds said he feels for Leafs enforcer Ryan Reaves, who signed a three-year contract in the summer but has been used sparingly.
“You want nothing more than to play well and help the guys out,” he said. “If you’re not doing that, you feel kind of lost. (Reaves) had a little bit of a tough time at the beginning of the season, but I don’t think he got too many opportunities to actually be able to do what he can do.
“That’s just me knowing how it happened for me. Feel like it’s going much the same for him.”
Simmonds, however, still looks back on his time with the Leafs fondly. While he didn’t suit up in last spring’s playoffs, he was at Amalie Arena when John Tavares scored the overtime winner in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning to clinch Toronto’s first series victory since 2004.
The veteran forward skipped down the hall in front of reporters on the way to celebrate with his teammates that night.
“To be there with the guys in the dressing room and feel what they’re feeling – the pressure – and finally being able to get past the first round, it’s pretty special,” Simmonds said. “Incumbent upon them to get a little bit further every year and win a Stanley Cup.
“Or else winning one round is not going to mean much.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2024.
Follow @JClipperton_CP on X.