Thursday, December 20, 2007

Evil is not as evil does

As a Caps fan, we took notice of the league imposing a 30-game suspension on New York Islander forward Chris Simon, yesterday, for his use of his skate to stomp on Pittsburgh Penguin Jarkko Ruutu last weekend. It ranks as the longest suspension imposed on a player in 80 years. It is also worth noting that Simon also has the second longest suspension in that time (25 games).

In his time as a Capital, Simon could wreak havoc on opponents on the ice, but seemed a quiet and thoughtful sort off the ice -- a man who was striving to deal with demons of his youth and having success in doing so. And we can only take at his word the statement by Caps goaltender and former teammate Olaf Kolzig that, "[Simon is] a great teammate and a great person."

But as Kolzig also noted, "he has a switch that when he gets aggravated he doesn't realize what he's doing." That is something we don't believe a fan of the sport can really comprehend -- the split personality of a professional athlete that can allow him to be personable and approachable away from the field, court, or rink; yet possessed by other forces in competition that would produce such behavior as hitting an opponent with a stick (what got Simon 25 games last year) or stepping on him with his skate (the basis for the current suspension).

We haven't seen or read anything in watching Simon's career to suggest he is an evil person. It is just that he has succumed to doing evil things at times on the ice. 55 games worth of suspension in nine months suggests that Simon needs outside help to deal with this problem. He's left the team voluntarily to seek that counseling. But having been suspended a total of eight times in his career over a 13-year period for a total of 70 games -- seven of those instances for acts of violence on the ice -- the league needs to be sure that what help Simon receives will have an effect on his on-ice behavior. We don't think there is anyone who wouldn't wish Simon success in battling that problem.