LOS ANGELES — For Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds, returning to Staples Center in Los Angeles, his original National Hockey League stomping grounds, for the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend after being gone for six years, was very sweet.
Indeed, Simmonds, who began his NHL career with the Los Angeles Kings, was the star of the 2017 NHL All-Star Game on January 29, leading the Metropolitan Division team to the championship and earning Most Valuable Player honors.
“It’s all pretty surreal,” he said. “I don’t even know if I realize what’s going on right now, but it’s pretty cool and I’m lucky I have some family members here. My fiancé is here, so I get to enjoy this moment with them. It’s been an awesome weekend for me.”
But forget the MVP thing. Simmonds was just happy to be an All-Star.
“They asked me how does being an All-Star sound, and I said, ‘weird,’” he noted. “It’s awesome. It’s definitely an honor. There’s so many great players in our game today. To be recognized as an All-Star is pretty special to me.”
The ovation Simmonds got from Kings fans was also very special to him and he admitted that it surprised him.
“It was pretty loud,” he said. “I was pretty impressed and everyone still remembers me here, so I’m definitely grateful for that. It was awesome.”
“[That] meant a lot,” he added. “I haven’t been here for six years. I got traded when I was still 22 years old. I’m 28 now. I’ve been in Philadelphia for the last six years. When you leave a place, you don’t expect to come back and get all the cheers as I did today, but I must have [done] something right when I was here.”
“I know I had a lot of die hard fans here, and I really appreciate those people. I just appreciate everything. It made me feel good today.”
Prior to the All-Star Games, Simmonds told reporters that he wanted to score against [Kings defenseman Drew] Doughty, his old roommate when he was with the Kings, and as fate would have it, he did just that in the championship game.
“It’s pretty funny because I stuck my stick behind [Doughty’s] helmet and kind of flicked it up,” he noted. “So possibly, he was trying to fix it, so I don’t know, I just took off—[New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall] went forward with it and I just took off.”
“I said, before the game, I’m going to drive back door with one of these plays,” Simmonds added. “About a foot from the net, I was like, ‘just hit me with the puck and hopefully, I can put it in.’ It was funny because it was exactly what we spoke about.”
“I thought [San Jose Sharks center Joe] Pavelski was going to get the puck, so I let Simmer go by me,” said Doughty. “I was going to try to go the other way, but he ended up one step faster than me, so I was screwed.”
Despite all that, it sounds like Doughty might get the last word on the matter.
“[The Kings are] going to Philly in a week,” he said. “He’ll be picking up dinner, that’s for sure.”
As Simmonds reflected on what he had just accomplished, he also looked at its significance on a broader, more important level.
“If you look around the game now, you’re starting to see different ethnicities, not only Black, but it’s starting to open up a little bit, and that’s the goal here,” he emphasized. “We’re trying to spread the game. We’re not necessarily trying to change the look of it, but just get different people in it and you get different avenues.”
“Hockey is for everybody, so it’s a great sport,” he added. “I’m just trying to be a good ambassador and stuff like that, so it’s great.”
Based on Simmonds’ NHL career to this point, evidence suggests that it’s been so far, so good for him on that ambassador thing.
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