Regg Simon wasn’t a particularly big winger, though not tiny, either – UAA’s 1999-2000 roster listed him at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds.
He wasn’t particularly fast, or overly skilled.
His skating was, uh, a work in progress.
But no one ever doubted his work ethic, or leadership, or toughness. He red-shirted his second season as a Seawolf to recover and rehab from a third surgery on his right shoulder. Simon’s left shoulder wasn’t sturdy either. Simon several times in his UAA career had a shoulder pop out of joint during a game. Usually, he popped it back into place, and took his next shift.
Among Simon’s other notable attributes were his brain – hockey IQ: high – and his attention to detail.
And that brings us to a Friday night in January in Mankato, Minn., 24 years ago this week, when Simon was a junior and an alternate captain. His smarts and devotion to detail allowed him to score the goal that forged the Seawolves a 1-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association tie at Minnesota State Mankato.
The game was scoreless through two periods, with UAA goaltender Corey Strachan and Mavericks masked man Eric Pateman delivering clean sheets. As the Seawolves returned to the ice for the third period – the visiting team entered the rink from behind the net the Mavericks defended in the first and third periods – Simon noticed the Zamboni driver had been overzealous in the amount of water used in resurfacing.
“I remember thinking, ‘Gosh, this is drenched,’ ’’ Simon recalled this week. “It was flooded.’’
Simon found the same was true in the zone his team would defend in the third period. He told on-ice officials the Seawolves would not start the period with a lake in their end. Rink personnel arrived with long-handled squeegees and the water that sat in front of Strachan’s net, and extended out to the face-off circles, was dispersed so it could quickly freeze.
Curiously, though wet conditions were identical in the end Mankato defended, the Mavericks never asked officials to use squeegees in their zone.
That soon proved the rub for the Mavericks, and an opportunity for Simon and the Seawolves.
As a Mavericks defenseman skated the puck from behind his net and up the middle of the ice in the opening seconds of the period, Simon, first in on the forecheck, angled toward his opponent to cut the ice in half and force the blueliner to make a pass. The “pass’’ barely moved the puck – it hit standing water and stopped.
“The puck just sat there, and he kept going,’’ recalled Simon, who collected the free puck. “I remember thinking, ‘I’ve got to put my stick down hard because the puck isn’t going to slide.’ ’’
Simon swooped in on a breakaway and scored 18 seconds into the period.
Decades later, Simon, who accumulated 12-21—33 totals in 133 career games at UAA, remembered most details clearly.
“When you don’t score many goals, you remember every one,’’ he said, laughing.
The one detail Simon doesn’t remember is exactly how he scored. I somehow have it in my shaky memory that he made a deke and tucked a backhander between Pateman’s pads. Simon politely figured that was unlikely.
“I probably wasn’t deking,’’ he said, laughing again. “You’ve seen me stickhandle. I pretty much had one move – one fake shot, then try to shoot high glove – so it was probably that.’’
In any event, Mankato scored on a power play five minutes later, and the teams skated to a 1-1 tie after 65 minutes – this was before post-overtime shootouts were a thing.
UAA beat the Mavericks 4-2 the following night. Simon assisted on Klage Kaebel’s empty-net goal to seal victory in the final minute. That Simon was on the ice helping protect a one-goal lead in the final minute was a measure of coach Dean Talafous’ trust in him.
The Mavericks got their revenge in the playoffs, sweeping UAA, 2-1 in OT and 3-2, to end the Seawolves’ season at 15-18-3. (Mankato’s eventual game-winning goal in the finale came from none other than Josh Kern of Anchorage – there’s always another Alaska angle, folks.)
Simon went on to captain the Seawolves as a senior.
He wore No. 3, an unusual number for a forward – low, single-digit numbers usually go to defensemen. Long story short: His mother liked the name, Trinity, of a girl Simon knew as a young teenager in Elk River, Minn. When Simon’s mother, Carolyn, died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm and his older sister, Rhonda, went into early labor a day later, his sister named her daughter Triniti. And Simon began wearing No. 3 – like The Holy Trinity – to honor his mother and his faith.
After his playing career, Simon sandwiched eight seasons coaching in the U.S. Hockey League – he led his old club, the Des Moines Buccaneers, to a league title, just as he had as a player, and was named General Manager of the Year – around two seasons as a UAA assistant coach under Dave Shyiak. He got out of the hockey business, but he remained in Alaska.
These days, Simon lives with his wife, Lorali, and their two dogs, golden retriever Ulu and mini dachshund Tulip, in the Valley, where he is health, safety and environmental manager for Matanuska Telecom Association.
He plays old man’s hockey a couple nights a week.
But, at 47, he probably doesn’t sweat it if the Zamboni operator goes a little heavy on the water.