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Family of Former NHL Player Chris Simon Blames His Suicide on CTE

Reuters/Andy Clark
Reuters/Andy Clark

The family of former NHL player Chris Simon, who died by suicide on Tuesday, say they believe Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy—often shortened to CTE—was the reason for his death.

Simon, 52, played in over 800 games across 15 seasons in the NHL, which is one of the most physical leagues in all of sports—a lengthy career that his loved ones believe may have driven him to suicide.

“The family strongly believes and witnessed firsthand, that Chris struggled immensely from CTE which unfortunately resulted in his death,” they said in a statement Tuesday night.

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CTE is a progressive degenerative disease that affects people with repeated concussions or traumatic brain injuries, which has been linked to issues in professional athletes in contact sports, like hockey and football.

The disease has been blamed for causing a rapid cognitive decline in some athletes as they age, depending on how often they suffered blows to the head.

The family asked for privacy in their statement, indicating they wouldn’t release more details about what potential symptoms of CTE Simon suffered from.

“We are grieving with the loss of our son, brother, father, partner, teammate and friend,” they said. “The entire Wawa community is sharing in our grief. We will not be releasing any further details at this time and ask for privacy during this very difficult time. We appreciate everyone who shares in our tragic loss.”

Simon’s death comes on the heels of Konstantin Koltsov, another former NHL player, committing suicide Monday morning in Miami, where his partner had been preparing to play in the Miami Open. He was 42.

The NHL did not address Simon’s family’s concerns about CTE, but released a statement Tuesday to honor Simon, a Canadian who played for the Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, New York Islanders, and Minnesota Wild.

Simon last played hockey in 2013, when he retired after playing two seasons at Metallurg Novokuznetsk in the Russian hockey league.

“A fierce competitor and teammate, Simon won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996 and reached the 1998 Stanley Cup Final with Washington as well as the 2004 Stanley Cup Final with Calgary,” the NHL’s statement said. “Our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends and former teammates.”

The league added that Simon played a “key role” in the dressing rooms for the teams he played for, calling him a natural leader. Tributes poured in for him from his old teams on Tuesday.

“Chris was never afraid to stand up for his teammates, and played a key role in the dressing room,” the NHL added. “He was a beloved friend, father, brother, and son.”

Simon’s former Avalanche teammate, Joe Sakic, praised his pal in a statement, remembering how he stood up for his teammates.

“Chris was a great guy, a beloved teammate and an important part of our first championship season,” he said, referencing their 1996 Stanley Cup championship. “He was a really good hockey player who could score goals, was a big presence in the dressing room, and was the first person to stand up and defend his teammates.”

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