LOS ANGELES — It’s been six years since Wayne Simmonds received a rousing ovation from the Staples Center crowd.
Simmonds been back plenty of times since the trade that sent him from LA to Philly, but he’s had his Philadelphia Flyers teammates along with him. That tends to make the pro-Los Angeles Kings crowd a little less cheerful.
All that was forgotten for a couple hours as Simmonds took to the ice during player introductions and received one of the loudest, positive reactions from the crowd. He didn’t predict this would come in his first ever NHL All-Star Game of which he’d eventually become the MVP.
“You know, it meant a lot. I haven’t been here for six years,” said Simmonds. “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 did 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.”
That good feeling clearly had an impact on the 28-year-olds game and those watching in and outside of the arena.
In the first game, Simmonds registered two goals. The Metro went on to demolish the Atlantic Division, 10-6.
When it came to the championship round against the defending Pacific Division — defending champions from last year’s all-star game in Nashville — it wasn’t Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin scoring the game winner.
It was Wayne f’ing Simmonds.
As for the goal itself, turns out Simmonds and Metropolitan Division teammate Taylor Hall telegraphed the play beforehand.
“I said to [Hall] before the game, I’m going to drive back door with one of these plays, and about a foot from the net, I was like, just hit me with the puck and hopefully I can put it in.”
It also involved some chicanery on the part of Simmonds at the detriment to former Kings teammate Drew Doughty. Which is nothing new for Simmonds who is known to be a bit of a pest; however this was all in good fun.
“It’s pretty funny because I stuck my stick behind [Doughty’s] helmet and kind of flicked it up,” said Simmonds, “so possibly he was trying to fix it, so I don’t know, I just took off — Hallsy went forward with it and I just took off.”
Watch the video above again and you’ll see what he’s talking about. On the faceoff, Doughty and Simmonds are lined up on the far side of center. Innocuously Simmonds taps Doughty’s helmet. Whether that played into the un-Norris like play of Doughty we’ll never know.
Nevertheless, the goal broke the 3-3 and stood as the game winner.
Fans were once again given the chance to vote for the MVP using social media. Here’s the thing: Simmonds wasn’t among the initial list of nominees. Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter, Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Cam Atkinson were the league offered options for people to vote on.
Once Simmonds scored the goal, all bets were off. Fans took over and voted Simmonds the MVP.
Not only does he split a million bucks with his Metro teammates, he won a new truck from Honda with some fancy decals on it.
When asked what he was going to do with the truck and if he was going to keep the decoration on the outside the MVP said, “I’m taking those decals off for sure.
“No clue what I’m going to do with [the truck]. Maybe somebody — my mom, dad, brothers or somebody needs a car or something like that. I don’t need it. It’s a nice luxury to have, but who knows what I do with it. Maybe I donate it, maybe I give it to a family member. But I’m not too sure. I haven’t really thought about it.”
A decision for another day. Right now Simmonds is going to savor the moment and try to soak in the feeling of being the all-star game MVP because he currently just feels ‘weird.’
And weird works. All-Star weekends are weird in their own way.
Viva la weird, Wayne Simmonds. You earned it.