The Green Line: Three best friends who all played a similar style of play. They wore the green practice jerseys in Cottonmouths practice and were often called the “Green Bastards.”

They loved to score, but also hit and fight, provide energy, and bring a strong defensive game. They usually played against other teams’ top players and made their lives on the ice a living hell. That always put a smile on those Green Bastards’ faces.

They were together from November to the last game of the playoffs. These three were very close off the ice as well. Fishing almost every day if the schedule allowed, and of course they shared a few pops together too.

So who was the Green Line? Will Aide, Patrick McCadden, and Craig Simchuk.

Each one from the Green Line brings memories. But there is one that sticks out more than the other two. His name alone invokes a wide range of comments and emotions. And while, two of the Green Bastards have moved on…he remains, and he’s looking for replacements…

Craig Simchuk.

You ask a little girl about six or seven, and she says that Craig’s the man she’s gonna marry. You ask a boy that same age and he says that ‘Simmer’ is his favorite player. When you talk to some of the older fans here in Columbus, comments range from… “he’s a great player,” or “a fighter to the core” or, “he’s just an all-around great guy.”

In others, the first thing that comes to mind is his 28-game suspension last year, from his hit on goalie, Kyle Rank, of Peoria.

I’m not going to beat a dead horse here. Sorry boys and girls. Craig’s name has been drug through the mud and back again. Some feel, this will be his year for vindication, since Rank retired. No matter what you think…Craig is going to play his game, and be better for it.

In sitting down with Craig recently, one thing that immediately caught my attention…he’s completely different off the ice. Quiet, almost reserved. Craig is confident, direct to a fault, and soft spoken. And it occurred to me that if he was as fast-paced and hard-hitting off the ice as he is on it…he’d be exhausted.

Enjoy my chat with one of The Green Line…Craig Simchuk.

The Sin Bin: The boys call your Simmer?
Craig Simchuk: Or Simba, after the Lion King.

TSB: Coming back from last season, what is your personal goal? What would you change from last season to this season?
CS: Definitely like to play a few more games. I have a certain number of goals and assists that I’d like to meet. But obviously make the playoffs as a team, as a whole and contribute as a member of the Cottonmouths.

TSB: During your suspension last year, I imagine that you still practiced with the team. Were you able to ‘guide’ them in-between the periods in the locker room from what you saw as an ‘outsiders’ prospective?
CS: As for my suspension, I took a month off or so from practice, due to a knee injury that I was battling. I still made it to the rink every day, and of course every game. I would try my best to help the team out, whether it was taping their sticks, or helping the equipment manager, even giving tips during intermissions. I took my suspension pretty hard and it affected me emotionally. I regretted what I did, but at the same time, I realized that I couldn’t change what happened, and I had to deal with it. I was in the gym daily, sometimes twice in hopes to come back in top shape as the team would try to make a run for the playoffs.

TSB: What was your mindset coming back on to the ice after your suspension? Did you feel like you had something to prove or was your mind just on the game in front of you?
CS: I felt like I did have something to prove to everyone who sent me hate mail, and to everyone in the league. I was so anxious to get back on the ice, that my first game back I arrived over three hours early. During my first two games after my suspension, I scored in both games and played some of my best hockey, before suffering from a broken finger which ended my season early.

TSB: Coming into your third year with Columbus, what do you think has changed about the organization that made you want to play here again?
CS: Coming into my third year there was no other place I wanted to be. Columbus is becoming my second home. I love it here. From the people, fans and of course, the weather. It’s a first class organization from the front office staff, owners, coaching staff and of course the players. I told Coach Jerome (Bechard)…it’s either Columbus or nothing. I have seen guys in the past get called up to the ECHL) and it doesn’t always pan out. I want to be somewhere, that I will get an opportunity to play and where I’m comfortable. I am not the type of player that likes sitting out, so I want to be here, helping my team on the ice.

TSB: So, after last year, is coming back to Columbus like a second chance for you?
CS: Essentially yeah. I want to redeem myself and prove to everyone…not only my teammates, but everyone across the league that I’m not necessarily the guy that they perceive in the media or on YouTube.

TSB: Craig Simchuk is a completely different guy.
CS: Correct.

TSB: So, let’s talk about this season. Against Macon on the 27th of October, you had the most penalty minutes in the game, is that something that we can expect from you, or is that kind of a fluke thing?
CS: I don’t know if it’s a fluke. But I don’t want to be doing that on a nightly basis. I think it’s a role that needs to be there and needs to be filled. I’m willing to do that if it helps our team win.

TSB: Jerome Bechard had said, when he needs you guys to step up, he’s going to ask you and obviously Kyle Johnson to take the big hits, get into fights, to motivate the team. He’s looking for someone to fill that role. Do you think that’s something you’ll do again and again?
CS: Yeah. I think so. I’ll put the team before myself. I’m not afraid to do it, I’ve done it in the past and I’m sure it’s going to happen again. I have no problem with that.

TSB: What motivates you when you are on the ice?
CS: Realizing the situation. How lucky we are to be playing hockey. So many people would love to be in my skates or my position and it just helps me realize the opportunities that I got, and I don’t want to spoil them, or waste them.

TSB: What is your pregame prep like?
CS: Nothing in particular. Only thing is a Starbucks coffee on the way to the rink. Meals constantly mixed up, nothing in particular.

craig
Photo Courtesy of BLD Graphics

TSB: No set pattern for you…like some of your teammates need the structure.
CS: I need a half hour to forty-five minute nap. That’s it.

TSB: Pre-game prep. Is there a ritual you have or do?
CS: I definitely need a hot pack on my back and stretch for forty-five minutes to an hour. Shower, tape my stick, visualize the rink and the rest is just…go.

TSB: If you were to compare yourself to an NHL player, who would you say your style of play emulates?
CS: I beg to say Jarome Iginla (Colorado Avalanche) or Ryan Kesler (Anaheim Ducks). Kinda does everything. Scores, assists, fights, hits…can wear many different hats.

TSB: What’s your best chirp during a game?
CS: Google me.

(I love that one, just saying) We had a good chuckle over that.

TSB: What makes you want to drop the gloves when you are playing?
CS: Hatred for the other player, or trying to help spark the team.

TSB: Get them motivated…?
CS: Right.

TSB: What’s a typical day off for Craig? What do you like to do?
CS: I’m an avid fisherman. I like the outdoors. I’ve been hunting a few times this year already. Shooting ranges. Anything that involves outdoors or guns, that’s me.

TSB: What makes you a great forward?
CS: I’m versatile. I started out this year in camp as a defenseman. I’ve played left wing, I’ve played right wing. Now I’m playing center. So, coach has trust in me in all of these positions so I think, that is one of my strengths is being versatile.

TSB: Are you a big presence or voice in the locker room?
CS: I like to think so. I do have a letter on my jersey and consider myself one of the leaders as one of the older guys on the team. So, I try to lead by example and speak up, so I would say, yes, I am.

TSB: What does it mean to you to have the ‘A’ on your jersey?
CS: It’s definitely an honor. It’s not something that is just given to anyone. You really have to earn it, and prove to yourself, your coach and your teammates that you do deserve it. I have played on many different teams with excellent leaders and I try to bring all the qualities that I have seen in the past. My definition of a Captain is someone who does the right thing when no one else is watching. I try to set an example for the new younger players on the team. From holding doors for people to being polite, to going to the gym daily and putting in the work that is necessary to win a championship.

TSB: Being an Alternate Captain, has that changed your style of play or you as a person?
CS: Being an Assistant Captain hasn’t changed me at all. If I have a letter on my jersey or not, it will not change me as a player or person. I will still bring the same qualities daily. I try my best to make rookies feel comfortable and try to help them understand Jerome’s systems, even though sometimes he doesn’t even know what he’s talking about…haha, just kidding.

TSB: If you weren’t playing hockey, what would you be doing?
CS: I’d be a police officer or fire fighter.

TSB: So, you’d say that your dream job is playing hockey?
CS: Ultimately, yes. I love to play yeah.

TSB: You’ve got a lot of rookies on the team this year. Do you try to guide them when you are on the ice? Give them advice maybe?
CS: I try to. As best as I can. I try to lead by example. But at the same time, I’m not going to ask them to do something that I’m not willing to do. So, that’s something I try to do.

TSB: On the flip side of being an Alternate or Assistant Captain, are you open to suggestion from other players?
CS: I am always open to new suggestions and advice from anyone. We even have some first year players on this team that could easily fill the role of a leader. I even look up to some of them, which is a big reason we are so close as a team.

TSB: So there is more cohesion with the team this year?
CS: Totally. Completely, night and day.

craig-2
Photo Courtesy BLD Graphics

TSB: What do you want to bring to the team this year, that maybe you haven’t done in the past?
CS: What do I want to bring this year? Everything! I want to contribute offensively and defensively. Being physical is a vital part of my game, which is something I have to bring every night. Hitting and playing hard are contagious. It’s not easy, but it’s something that needs to be done. I can’t expect other players to do all the gritty work as I sit back. I try to lead by example with my play. I also have to be willing to fight at the drop of a hat if it’s required, no matter what. I am a team first type of player, and if I see and opposing player taking cheap shots on my line mates, I will be the first one in there making sure that he knows that’s not okay.

TSB: What do you want people to know about Craig Simchuk:
CS: Like I said before, who I am on the ice, does not reflect who I am off the ice. One, people do make mistakes, but they do bounce back. Off the ice, I’m a generally nice guy, outgoing, helpful. I’ll do things for the community, children. So, my reputation isn’t what people perceive me as. I am truly grateful to have this opportunity in Columbus. The people here are amazing and I am so lucky to be here, there’s no other place I’d rather be. I will do anything for my team to help bring a championship back to Columbus where it belongs. I also want everyone to know, the past is the past, and we can’t change what happened. I’ve dealt with the consequences and now am moving on. Everyone makes mistakes, but what we learn from those mistakes is what makes us better people.

TSB: You’ve got a pretty big fan base here, most of the kids absolutely love you. What does it mean to have fans come up to you and want your autograph or want a picture with you?
CS: I love it. I realize that it’s not going to last forever. So, might as well enjoy it now, and to help someone, and make someone’s day, by throwing them a puck or giving them an autograph means more to them than the ten seconds that it takes. So, it’s well worth the time.

TSB: On your Bucket List, one thing you listed was to learn to play the guitar.
CS: I have a guitar. I went for lessons for about a month, and decided to quit.

TSB: You also have on here that you want to predict the future as your super power. Why?
CS: So I can predict lottery numbers.

So, here is my favorite part…Rapid Fire:

Favorite food – Prime rib
Car or truck – Truck
Favorite color – Blue
Favorite Restaurant – Cheesecake Factory (Mine too incidentally)
If you are with the boys, what are you drinking – double fisting Bud Light
Sport other than hockey – Golf
Video Game – Call of Duty
Favorite go-to snack – Trail Mix
Facebook or Twitter – Facebook
Snapchat or Instagram – Snapchat

Our thanks to Craig Simchuk for taking the time to chat with me!

 

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