The 2017 NHL All-Star Game proved to be Wayne’s World, and not because former Edmonton Oilers great Wayne Gretzky was behind the bench coaching.
Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds was the star of the game played at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. Simmonds scored 3 goals, including the game-winner that gave the NHL’s Metropolitan Division a 4-3 victory over the Pacific Division in a three-on-three format.
“It’s all pretty surreal,” Simmonds said after the game. “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.”
“I think 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,” Simmonds said. “Hockey is for everyone, so it’s a great sport. I’m trying to be a good ambassador and stuff like that, so it’s great.”
Simmonds serves on the board of directors of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation which was created by the late Flyers owner, Ed Snider, to build lives, unite communities, and teach life skills through hockey.
The All-Star game and the MVP honor was a Hollywood ending of sorts for Simmonds, who was traded by the Los Angeles Kings to the Flyers six seasons ago. Simmonds wasn’t considered the centerpiece of that deal – center Bryaden Schenn was.
The Flyers knew they were getting a rugged forward in Simmonds, a reliable player who could chip in a few goals, play on a defensive line, and fight. But he evolved into is the Flyers’ leading goal scorer over the last two seasons.
He tops the team in goals so far this season with 21 and is third on the team in overall points – the combination of goals and assists – with 38.
Simmonds is regarded as one of the NHL’s best close-in scorers, using his wiry-but-solid 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame to screen goaltenders and his quick hands to tap in rebounds or tip in shots from teammates.
Former Flyers Head Coach Peter Laviolette knew he had a diamond in the rough in Simmonds and knew exactly where to put him on the ice when he arrived from L.A. in 2011.
“I just remember Coach Laviolette just putting me net front on the power play from first practice when I got to Philadelphia,” Simmonds said. “From then on out, it was kind of just something that I relished, and I just tried to make the best of my opportunity. We’re sitting here right now, so so far, so good.”
Simmonds has become a prototype for the NHL power forward position. At NHL drafts, several young forwards chosen – particularly players of color – have said that they model their game after Simmonds’. And some NHL general managers talk about looking for Wayne Simmonds-like players in the draft.