Former Stanley Cup-winning NHL player Chris Simon dead from suicide at age 52

 March 20, 2024

Former National Hockey League player Chris Simon, who won the 1996 Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 52 in his hometown of Wawa in Ontario, Canada, ESPN reported.

Simon's death was the result of suicide, which his family attributed to the negative effects of the degenerative brain disorder known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is impossible for doctors to fully diagnose while somebody is alive, though it is believed that it can be detected in some instances through certain exhibited symptoms and neurological exams.

Believed to have suffered the effects of CTE brain injuries

"The family strongly believes and witnessed firsthand, that Chris struggled immensely from CTE which unfortunately resulted in his death," the Simon family said in a statement released through the former player's former agent, Paul Theofanous.

"We are grieving with the loss of our son, brother, father, partner, teammate, and friend. The entire Wawa community is sharing in our grief," the family added. "We will not be releasing any further details at this time and ask for privacy during this very difficult time. We appreciate everyone who shares in our tragic loss."

Fox News reported that former Avs teammate turned team president, Joe Sakic, reacted to the sad news with a statement that said, "Chris was a great guy, a beloved teammate, and an important part of our first championship season. 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."

The NHL also released a statement that said the league "mourns the passing of Chris Simon, who played in more than 800 NHL games over 15 seasons. A fierce competitor and teammate, Simon won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996 and reached the 1998 Stanley Cup Final with Washington as well as the 2004 Stanley Cup Final with Calgary."

"Our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends, and former teammates," the league added, while a spokesman for the NHL players union simply noted that everybody joined Simon's children and family in grieving the tragic loss.

15-year NHL career

According to the Associated Press, Simon, a descendant of Canada's Ojibwa tribe who was heralded as a role model for other First Nations hockey players, was first drafted in 1990 by the Philadelphia Flyers, though he never took the ice for that team and was instead traded in 1992 to the Quebec Nordiques, which subsequently relocated to Colorado just in time for its successful 1996 Stanley Cup run.

Though officially a forward, Simon developed a reputation as an on-ice enforcer and participated in more than 100 fights throughout his 15-year career in the NHL, during which he played for not only the Nordiques/Avalanche but also the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, New York Islanders, and Minnesota Wild.

After retiring from the NHL following the 2007-2008 season, Simon would go on to play five more seasons with four different teams in Russia's professional hockey league before finally retiring from the ice for good in 2013.

During his NHL career, counting both regular season and playoff games, Simon played in 857 games, scored 154 goals with 168 assists, and spent 2,015 minutes in the penalty box. Per the AP, Simon was also suspended by the NHL eight separate times for a total of 65 games due to his rough style of play that occasionally crossed the line of what is acceptable.

Fondly remembered by friends and teammates

ESPN reported that the NHL Alumni Association said of Simon in a social media post, "Chris was never afraid to stand up for his teammates, and played a key role in the dressing room. He was a beloved friend, father, brother, and son."

Simon's former agent, Larry Kelly, told the AP of his former client, "For a big tough player, he was also a very kind, caring individual who was always respectful and grateful for advice."

Former Calgary teammate Mike Commodore also said on social media, "Chris Simon was most definitely an intimidating guy on the ice. We spent a lot of time together during Flames ’04 run since we were both living in the hotel," and added, "He couldn’t have been nicer to me. RIP Chris. You will be missed."

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