READING, Penn. – In the newest installment of “Where Are They Now?”, we’ll be taking a look at Al Sims and what his storied hockey life was like before coming to Reading and after.
Sims was drafted in the third round of the 1973 NHL draft by the Boston Bruins after two years of junior hockey with the Cornwall Royals of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). While in Boston, he was teammates with hockey Hall-of-Famer Bobby Orr. In his first NHL season, the Boston Bruins would make a return to the Stanley Cup Final and took on the Philadelphia Flyers, which the Flyers won in six games. It would be the only trip to the Stanley Cup Final for Sims during his playing days, as he would split the next six seasons between the Bruins and the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
Entering the 1979 season, Sims would leave Boston to join the nearby Hartford Whalers where he joined forces with two more hockey Hall-of-Famers: Gordie Howe and his son Mark. Gordie’s other son Marty Howe was also on that team. Despite the number of Howe’s on that team, the Whalers failed to make the playoffs during Sims’ two seasons there. Sims would only play in nine more NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings before spending parts of the next four seasons overseas.
In 1988, Sims returned to North America hockey and joined the Fort Wayne Komets of the International Hockey League (IHL) as a player-assistant coach. The following year, Sims would be named head coach of the Komets. His initial stint with the Komets would last four seasons and in each of the four years, the team made the playoffs, with two of those trips to the playoffs resulting in trips to the Turner Cup Finals. After losing in 1991 Finals, the Komets would capture their first Turner Cup in 20 years in 1993. Following the championship, Sims left Fort Wayne and made a return to the NHL as an assistant coach for the expansion Anaheim Mighty Ducks. It wouldn’t be the last time Komets fans would see Sims behind their bench.
After three with the Mighty Ducks, it was time for a change of scenery. Heading into the 1996-97 season, Sims was named the fourth head coach in San Jose Sharks history. His one and only season in Silicon Valley was a forgettable one, as the Sharks finished the season 20 games below .500.
It wouldn’t be long though before Sims found his way back behind a bench. The next season, he returned to the IHL and coached the Milwaukee Admirals for three years. Sims continued the franchise’s streak of getting into the Turner Cup playoffs, but he was unable to capture another championship, during his stint behind the bench.
After taking a year off of coaching, Sims moved to the ECHL and was named the first head coach of the Reading Royals. The Columbus Chill relocated their franchise to Reading after the city of the Columbus was awarded a National Hockey League franchise in 2000. In his lone season behind the Reading bench, Sims led the Royals to 27-47-8, the second-worst record in Royals franchise history.
Following four seasons of coaching in the Central Hockey League (CHL) split between two franchises, and minimal success, Sims would make his return to the IHL as head coach of the Fort Wayne Komets. Under his tutelage, the Komets would go on and win four championships in five seasons, including a three-peat in his first three seasons back in Fort Wayne. Sims’ final championship came in 2012 in the CHL, when the Komets steamrolled the Wichita Thunder in five games.
When the Komets moved their franchise to the ECHL, Sims would stay behind the Fort Wayne bench. In December 2012, Sims returned to Reading for the first time as a visiting coach, and left on the short end of the stick, as the Royals defeat the Komets 6-4. In their first ECHL season, the Komets would end up missing the playoffs for the first time since 2002. After the 2012-13 season, the Komets did not retain Sims and hired current head coach Gary Graham.
Sims gave coaching one more try, this time with the Evansville Icemen. On New Year’s Day 2015, the Icemen replaced Dwight Mullins with Sims. During that year and a half stint, Sims was unable to lead Evansville to the playoffs.
Following the 2016-17 season, Sims retired from coaching. The following season, the Fort Wayne Komets decided to honor one of the best coaches in franchise history by retiring the number 504 in his honor. The number represents the number of wins Al had while the head coach of the Komets.