It’s been almost a decade since Jon Sim last wore the New York Islander uniform, but his days with the franchise still bring back good memories.
“I loved the Island,” Sim stated in his chat with nyislesblog.com back in September. “I loved being there. I appreciated the organization and getting a chance to play at the Coliseum.”
Sim, 41, first came to Long Island in the summer of 2007-08 after three seasons that took him through Philadelphia, Florida, and Atlanta (defunct since 2011). The New Glasgow, Nova Scotia native was a part of four key signings by then g.m. Garth Snow. Sim, veterans Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie, and Andy Sutton, were all brought to the Isles after the team had lost its big pieces — captain Alexei Yashin, Ryan Smyth, Jason Blake, Viktor Kozlov, and others — that helped the team make the playoffs the season prior.
To Sim though, who was coming off his best season as a pro statistically, receiving the deal from the organization was a pretty big deal.
“That first year I came to camp in really good shape,” Sim remembered. “I was slated to play with Mike Sillinger and Trent Hunter. We ended up having a really good preseason and we’re really gelling together.” That chemistry Sim was creating with Sillinger and Hunter came to a screeching halt when in just the second game of the season, he blew his knee completely out. The blow cost Sim the entire season.
“That was a huge disappointment for me and for the whole organization,” Sim added. “I never really rebounded from that injury.”
Sim came back for the following season fully healthy and looking to make the impact that was missing with him sidelined the entire season prior. But as he said in the quote above, the injuries did their damage. The left winger would only see 49 games worth of action in his second season, amassing just 9 goals and 15 points. But beyond the point total, Sim having a reduced role seemed to be his way of being able to stay in the game.
“I did what I had to do survive to play in the NHL and try to help the team,” he said. The Islanders would finish dead last in the league in 2008-09, but Sim took it upon himself to mentor the younger players both on and off the ice to get them to buy in to what an NHL player was. Some of those players he did mentor are still good friends with Sim, both still playing or retired.
“Andrew MacDonald, Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen,” Sim said, “they were good friends.” Admitting to the fact that he was on his way out career wise, Sim took it upon himself to show that he was the ultimate professional and lead by example. “Everybody wishes they could play forever. I think I got everything out of my body and played as long as I could in the NHL. It was those little things that were keeping me in there.”
Sim would conclude his 08-09 season with the Isles AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who were playoff bound. After his short run down in Bridgeport, he was back with the Islanders for the start of the 2009-10 campaign.
While all the headlines focused on John Tavares, the team’s first overall pick in the draft, Sim had his most productive season wearing orange and blue.
Sim missed just five games all year long and registered 13 goals and 22 points. Head coach Scott Gordon used the effective 5’10, 192-pounder all throughout the lineup and got the most out of him. “I just played my game and didn’t worry about anything else that was going on,” Sim recalled. “After coming back from the surgery and missing that following year, I started to feel better.
“I found a home on the third line and some nights it was fourth line. Some nights it was first line. It was very sporadic, but I didn’t come to the rink that year focused on points. I was basing it on consistency and trying to do the right things.”
One other element that Islander fans will remember about Sim, he was a pest.
He would protect Tavares to some degree, but Sim resorted to how he would play in his junior days where not only was he good, but you had the opposition trying to take him out. “I enjoyed getting swatted in the face and given my chirps, trying to get the other team off their game,” he noted. “And it worked.”
Even during that down year, Sim still fully remembers what the Coliseum was like when the energy was pumping through the building.
Playing the Rangers, Flyers, and some of the other high-profile opponents, those were fun nights for Sim. Having the seven minute drive from Garden City — which he fell in love with as well — was also very convenient. It might not have been the best rink Sim believes, but it had character and jam to it.
“I enjoyed every minute playing there,” he said. “The crowd was on top of you. The boards were lively. The glass was weird at times. You didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Sim also admitted he had a few favorites he shared the ice with during his four-year run.
“Mike Sillinger was one. We became really good friends. We lived around the block from each other. Dwayne Roloson too. Those are two that definitely stand out in my mind.”
Having a good group of guys with him, Sim — like many — you can’t speak of because of it’s possible explicit nature, but there were still a few that comes up.
Like the time the team was playing Tomas Vokoun and the Florida Panthers. Sim took three goalie interference penalties to get under the Vokoun’s skin, shot pucks at him in warmups and then during the games after the whistle.
Sim would play one more season on Long Island in 2010-11 before being put on waivers midseason. After many stops in Europe the next year and coming back to North America to suit up for the Sound Tigers again, he called it career at age 37.
After retirement, Sim got involved back in his home province with Atlantic Hockey Group. Still involved, he looks after all of Nova Scotia hockey programs in the spring time. He runs all of the schools, camps, and clinics.
“I’m still around hockey. Just a little less then were used to,” Sim said.
Sim might be far away in Nova Scotia, but he still keeps in contact with Bailey and now the Islanders captain, Anders Lee. Running a major bantam team, Sim and others run a fundraiser that involves winning a trip to New York to see the Islanders play. He comes back to the Island once a year and relive some good memories.
“I still try to get back any chance I can,” Sim added. “I still watch all the games at home and am a huge Islander fan.”