Custom Search

Don Simmons: Forgotten hero

There is no question Johnny Bower was an invaluable member of the 4 Leaf teams that won Cups in the 1960’s.

But I want to bring up a name that was a factor in the first championship of my childhood- Don Simmons.

Simmons may be best known as the guy who was in the net for the Leafs when they were hammered 11-0 by the “lowly” Boston Bruins during the 1963-’64 season. What’s often forgotten is that Simmons was in net the very next night and he shut out the powerful Chicago Black Hawks 2-0. (The irony is that Leaf Coach, Punch Imlach, had planned to send Simmons to the minors after the Boston game, but he stayed around because the call-up goalie couldn’t make it to Chicago in time.)

But my strongest – and fondest- memory of Simmons is that he was the guy who was in goal at the jam-packed Chicago Stadium the night the Leafs won the Cup in April, 1962. Johnny Bower had been injured earlier in the series (I think he pulled a hamstring stretching to stop a Bobby Hull shot) and Simmons stepped in and performed admirably.

Imagine a team now winning the Cup with their “back-up” goalie. Simmons was a fine netminder, unusual for the time in that he was left-handed, meaning he caught with his right hand and held his goalie stick with his left hand. (As there are more "righties" than "lefties", most goalies, to this day, catch the puck with their left hand.)

Simmons was outstanding in the deciding Game 6 in Chicago that spring night, allowing only a third-period goal to Hull, a goal that gave the gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead.

There was such a long delay after Hull scored, with fans throwing stuff all over the ice, the Leafs were able to re-focus and get back to business. Chicago did not maintain the momentum after the delay and Toronto stormed back with goals by Bob Nevin and Dick Duff. Toronto won their first Cup since 1951. (In the photo we’ve included with this story, Simmons is the Leaf player on the far left of the picture.)

Bower gets the credit, and deservedly so. But Simmons, to me, was a hero because without him, the Leafs may well not have won the Cup in 1962.

Like many other youngsters across the country at the time, it was my first Cup as a Leaf fan, one that’s easy to remember fondly to this day.

No comments:

Post a Comment