On a balmy December evening in Lafayette, Louisiana back in 2011, David Simoes had drifted off to sleep. He and his wife Mary had just welcomed their latest addition, a son named Peter just two months prior, joining big sister Lucy to round out their family. The rigors of a hockey season, on top of a newborn blessing their house made any opportunity to sleep one to take advantage of. However, on this night, this sleep, would be one that would forever change Simoes.
Growing up in Vanderhoof, British Columbia, Simoes did what every other kid did when he turned five years old, he started playing hockey. His dad, who Simoes says is his hero in his personal life, provided him with a backyard rink to hone his skills.
“I immediately fell in love with the game,” Simoes said.
A Canadian kid playing hockey throughout his entire youth is not exactly a foreign concept by any means, but Simoes’s love for the game blossomed around the age of 14. While his father was his first idol and most important, Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils become his on-ice idol. Known for his intense playing style, immense physical presence, and natural leadership skills, Simoes knew that Stevens was the type of player and man he would model his game after. Like any other kid, he wanted to make it to the NHL, but to do so, he knew that he would have to step his game up, which is exactly what he did. He started training. He trained hard, knowing that he had to outwork everyone else to get where he wanted to go. The first stop would be making it to Junior A hockey, which he did, but he didn’t stop there. He kept working, kept fighting, kept wanting more.
Simoes would eventually break into the professional ranks with the New Mexico Scorpions of the Central Hockey League. He would find his first professional “home” with the Mississippi RiverKings, where he not only played in 114 games, but made a name for himself as one of the toughest players in the league.
“It was nice to be recognized. I tried to play mean and clean, and I loved dropping the gloves, especially early in my career,” Simoes said.
After bouncing around with a couple other teams in the Central Hockey League, a new chapter would present itself to Simoes, and it was one that he almost passed on. Back to the mild Lafayette winter night. Simoes was fast asleep as his most recent stop in his career led him to the Louisiana IceGators of the SPHL. The IceGators were a couple of months into their season and Simoes was a big part of their team with 10 points just 17 games into the campaign. On that night, Simoes had a dream. He dreamt that he was playing for the
Kansas City Missouri Mavericks. He didn’t know why, and didn’t quite understand it. He had heard great things about the team and the organization. He had played in Missouri, but as a member of the opposition. But, why that dream? Why then? Little did he know that dream was fate knocking on his door.
Two weeks later, Simoes received a late-night text message. He picked up his phone to see that it was from Mavericks coach Scott Hillman. He opened the message to find an offer to come play for the Mavericks. Simoes didn’t know what to do. He was overjoyed at the thought of playing for Hillman in Missouri, but hesitant to yet again move his family, especially with a newborn baby. Over the next few days, he and Mary discussed it at great length, the pros and cons, the dream, the opportunity, the risks, everything.
“After a couple of days of thinking about it, and the fact that my dream had actually come true, we decided to take the offer. We moved to Missouri on Christmas Day to join the team. We thought it was really meant to be, and needless to say, it was the best hockey decision of my career,” Simoes said.
His dream had come true and the rest was history. Simoes immediately became a fan favorite. He was tough and rugged, protective but clean, and cared more about the logo on the front of the sweater and the fans in the seats than anything else. Simoes gave the Mavericks faithful everything that he had night after night. His affinity for dropping the gloves didn’t slow, and many memorable moments ensued, but none more memorable than this one:
Simoes and Gabriel Boutin-Gagnon of the Quad City Mallards went toe to toe, exchanging iron-fisted punches to the face in what was just another great tilt for Simoes. What you don’t see in that video is something that Simoes had never done before in his hockey career. As he was exiting the ice, wiping blood away from his freshly broken nose, Simoes threw his hands up in the air, not only saluting the fans, but saluting the moment.
“My last fight ever I did something I don’t think I did in my whole career and I waved my hands in the air and the crowd blew up. I had a broken nose and was bleeding all over. John Howe has a picture and I look at that picture from time to time and it represents so much more than hockey. My faith, my family and now my work are all represented in that picture,” Simoes said.
The fans were already going nuts. They did anytime Simoes laid down his stick and gloves in preparation for battle. When his arms went up into the air, that arena was louder than it had ever been to that point. No one knew it, but that was the last time that David Simoes would ever receive the gladiator’s salute. That was his last fight.
On Friday, February 15th, the Mavericks would welcome the Bloomington Blaze to Independence. With Valentine’s Day still lingering, it would be anything but a love affair. The two teams did not like each other, and it was evident throughout the entire season. The Mavericks were incredibly shorthanded that night, and Simoes being the team player that he was, logged some minutes at forward. Actually, he logged one shift at forward. That’s all it took to make his mark on the game. On that lone shift, Simoes beat Blaze goalie Pier-Olivier Pelletier through the five-hole for his second goal of the season, but last of his career.
Later in that game, with Simoes battling in the corner, Blaze forward Brett Lutes hit Simoes from behind, sending him head first into the boards in what became one of the scarier moments the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena had ever seen. As chaos ensued on the ice, with any and every Maverick trying to get their hands on Lutes, Simoes laid motionless on the ice as the Mavericks training staff rushed out to care for him. Lutes would be tossed from the game, get handed a suspension from the league, and will forever live in infamy in Independence, Missouri. In that split second, the tremendous career of David Simoes was over. In an incredible showing of gamesmanship and understanding, Simoes holds no animosity towards Lutes.
“Hockey is a quick game and there is no ill will towards Mr. Lutes. It was unfortunate and I wish I could have ended differently, but that is hockey. I have not spoken to Mr. Lutes, but that is not from anyone avoiding anyone,” Simoes Said.
Since hanging up the skates, Simoes has taken on new challenges in life, first in South Carolina then back home in Vanderhoof with his wife and two children. Since returning to his hometown, Simoes now lives on a nice plot of land, rife with rabbits, chickens, sheep, pigs, and of course the new family cow Dandelion. Outside of playing a key role in one of the leading sawmill manufacturing companies in North America, Simoes is still involved with the game of hockey. A few years have passed since that foreshadowing dream, and his son Peter is now five years old. Like all other kids growing up in Vanderhoof, and just like his father, Peter has laced up the skates to follow in the footsteps of his dad, and Simoes will be right there, coaching him through the initiation program along with 34 other future hockey stars.
Simoes can’t help but smile as he watches his son fall in love with the game that has given him so much in his lifetime. He thinks about all of the people that have meant so much to him, and how he would never have had the opportunity to meet and connect with those dear friends without hockey. He thinks about all of his brothers in the locker room that he fought beside night after night, forging bonds that last a lifetime. He thinks about all of the experiences that have crossed his path, both good and bad, and how they have forged him into the man that he is today. Most of all, he thinks about how much he misses the game, and how his love for hockey will never fade.