David Simms started watching, and loving Ice Hockey in Solihull. Such was his love of the Barons, that he joined as a supporters club committee member, and moved up to manage the team. In 1991 he helped found the Sheffield Steelers and since then has occupied pretty much every position within the club, including five years as a team manager.
Best known for his opinionated views, announcing and commentary, Simms has an opinion about everything and everyone – the horrible thing for those who hate the bloke is that even they have to admit he is (almost) always right. Well, that’s what he says anyway!
Murph On Ice– You are without a doubt one of the passionate hockey people who brings character and knowledge to the game here in the UK, but who are some of your favourite on-ice characters from over the years? Why?
Dave Simms – My favourite character in the British game was an import I signed when I managed the Solihull Barons, in my view the best ever import to come to the UK. Brent Sapergia, DiDiomete, he couldn’t tie Sapergia’s left skate when it comes to character.
Blaisdell was another favourite of mine, again he was my coach when I managed the Steelers, including our Grand Slam. Mike Peron, Dion Darling all good characters in Sheffield. Brad Voth in Cardiff was irreplaceable as a character for that franchise. Payette in his Coventry days – not anymore, but when he came over he was box office. Niekar in Nottingham, Barry was a giant on and off the ice, those guys paid their own way.
Murph – The Steelers have a storied history both on and off the ice. Can you tell us your top three moments of all-time for the club?
Simmsey – My top moment as a Steeler was the famous bench clearance of 2001 – money couldn’t buy the emotion of that night, the way it started, being stood next to Blazer when he told the troops they could go. To see 20 Steelers leave the bench and skate away from you into battle, as the Panthers fans through coins at us, the hysteria that broke out afterwards. Peter Woods just being in disbelief what had happened, his assistant Alex Dampier on the other hand loving every second of it. I loved that night.
That was the 2001 Grand Slam season, in 1995 we won the league for the first time, again in Nottingham – did you know that the Steelers have won more championships in Nottingham than they have in their own rink – true.
Well in 1995 we won the league in the old barn. The place was packed, we were a few goals down and then Ken Priestlay hit five and we came back to win the league. After the game, no “Congratulations Steelers, League Champions” no anything, just as we would have wanted in there. What a great night.
The 2002 Play-Off championship was a great one. We had many problems in 2001 after the Grand Slam, change of ownership, horrible times. The team of 2002 was put together very last minute, and to win the play-offs that year was incredible. We had two players who had 700 NHL games between them. Brad Lauer and Paul Kruse. Both of them cried in the dressing room after the final. All those games, yet the pair of them had never won anything before coming to Sheffield – funny that.
Murph– You’ve seen a lot of players come and go over the years, who are your top-six EIHL players of all time, or All-Star team perhaps?
Simmsey – If it’s Elite League time, and not Super league – if you want to win then you sign Jody Lehman. He takes players to places they don’t like to go. I have never met anyone who made others so accountable. He would take it right to your face, no hiding place from Jody. When it came to the money games there was no one better. A Wednesday night in Basingstoke, and I don’t know if Jody was your man. A big must win-game, and I’d take him every day of the week, and twice on a Sunday! Loved the bloke. Two players that played with Lehman in Coventry have to make the EIHL all-time top six as well. Carlson and Calder. Carlson was also the most under-rated player. He never got the credit he deserved, because Calder scored the goals he took the limelight, but I don’t think there has been a better two-way centre in the league than Carlson. Calder was just a consistent and natural goal scorer. He scored 30 playing on a third line with Russ Cowley as a line mate, that’s how good he was.
Jade Galbraith is box office – I saw him last year play in Coventry. He was banged up, bandaged up and probably shouldn’t have played, but did. He beat the Blaze on his own. He scored short-handed, power-play, even strength. He even scored a highlight reel empty-net goal that night, and he is the only player that can score highlight reel empty-net goals.
The guy that got rid of him was Corey Neilson, a strange chap at times. Slightly out there if you like, but you have to admit when he first arrived he was some player. The best power-play guy I have seen, and remember I watch Legue and Sarich every week. Neilson is so patient now, three years ago he was a very special player. If he isn’t one of the best players to play in the EIHL era then I’m a Dutchman.
The best Brit to come out of the EIHL is Robert Dowd. David Clark, and Ashley Tait must be close seconds, but Dowd came through the ranks of the Elite League and has now gone on to bigger and better things. Dowd, Richardson, Meyers, Myres, Phillips, have all come through and become stars in their own right, good people, great players. Dowd though is very special, the ‘Special’ one in my book.
Murph – What are your thoughts on the new conference system that has been implemented for the 2012-13 season?
Simmsey – Love it, Love it, Love it.
Nine teams benefit 100%, and Hull I think benefit a little. It gives every team hope, right now Edinburgh think (rightly or wrongly) that they can finish second in their conference. When has Edinburgh thought they could finish second in anything before? Never. The same with Dundee and Hull. Everyone talks about the South, but the battle up North will be very hard. Sure Braehead will win it, but the fight for the other positions will be fierce.
Dundee vs Fife is a bigger game for the Stars than Dundee vs Sheffield or Dundee vs Nottingham. So give the fans more of what they want. In Scotland, that’s more local games. Down South the teams can’t draw against the Scot’s, so give them what they want which is more Steelers Panthers or Devils Blaze games.
The league couldn’t continue as it was, it had to try something different and I think this works for all 10 clubs. All 10 clubs must think so as well, as they all voted for it.
I know there are some faults that over the years will get ironed out. The main one being the Braehead situation, do they have an easier path to the title. My view is that is it the worst thing for the league and sport if they were to win it? Perception in Scotland, awareness in Scotland, would it be that bad. Sure for us all trying to beat them it would, but from an independent view would it be so bad?
The conference will be the one thing that makes the league stronger – I say take it one step further and have an international conference, teams in France, Holland etc. We all play them once or twice home and away. It would work, that day will come.
Murph– Who do you think will be the most important new Steeler this season? And league-wide, which new player will have the biggest impact?
Simmsey – I think before the import rule went from 10 – 11, Colin Shields. Signing a Brit who can get 30 goals was huge for us. I also think Goertzen will have a huge impact. For me, I love having Danny Meyers here, we have a history of taking Panthers players and then winning championships with them. Steelers don’t win when they go in the other direction, Leach, Beaulie, Allison etc, but those coming the other way, Bobyck, Brebant, Blaisdell, Sebastian and of course Paul Adey. So for me Danny wins.
If, and it’s a big if – Mike Danton will be an interesting guy to see and for me interview, I look forward to that one. Ling in Nottingham will score, Faulkner in Cardiff too.
Murph – Which teams do you think present the biggest obstacle for the Steelers getting back to the top of the league and winning some hardware? Why?
Simmsey – The conference the Steelers are in will be a battle every night. I think the three arena teams will come 1st, 2nd and 3rd but I can’t wait for every game. The fans will be in for a treat I’m sure. I think the conference could be that close and competitive that it does allow Braehead in. Sheffield, Nottingham and Belfast have more depth than Cardiff and Coventry. The depth issue has already hit Coventry with an injury and a suspension, and the league hasn’t started yet. 1-11 all five teams are so close. 12-17 the arena teams have the advantage I think.
Murph – You’ve had some good banter with the likes of the Devils Devin DiDiomete this summer! Do you think it’s important for UK hockey fans to see the lighter and more personable side of the players and the game within reason?
Simmsey – Within reason. I have met Devin. He seems like a real good guy. He is a character, but the real characters can do it on and off the ice – Galbraith say – Devin has to show he can do it on the ice, for me that’s a tough ask. I’m all for banter, I’m all for taking that banter close to the line but he has to be careful he doesn’t over step it. He is young and excitable, we shouldn’t knock him for that. We look for characters, we don’t want to hammer him for being one.
Murph – And finally Simmsey, I have to ask, give us some predictions for the top things EIHL fans should be on the look-out for this season?!
Simmsey – Well I think it will be a great year. I don’t think there has been this much excitement in all the teams for an age. I think because of the conference system every fan has some hope for their club.
Sure Braehead will win the North, but the fight for second could go to any of the four teams. In the Challenge Cup, teams will qualify for progression rounds that don’t normally qualify, and that’s good for them, their finances and for their supporters.
Those fans in the South (and Belfast) will look forward to more big games, and probably some of the best hockey since the ISL days, and isn’t that what we all really want. Also, when you get in your car on a Sunday afternoon to drive to the rink, you don’t really want to drive to a game already knowing who was going to win. Last season there was too much of that. This season in both conferences there will be many more games that we have no idea who will win until the 60-minute mark. That’s better for the sport isn’t it?
Murph – Agreed. Thanks again Simmsey, a pleasure to talk hockey with you, and I’ll see you at the rink soon enough.
Simmsey – No problem Murph, thanks for having me on.
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