From the Grand Rapids Magazine October 2018 issue.
The Grand Rapids Griffins kick off the 2018-19 season this month under the leadership of Ben Simon, who was named the team’s 11th head coach in June. But Simon is no stranger to Grand Rapids — he spent the last three seasons as assistant coach for the Griffins, helping lead the team to a Calder Cup title in 2017, and played for the team in the 2006-07 season.
A Shaker Heights, Ohio, native, Simon was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1997. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 2000, he spent 11 years playing professionally around the world. Simon began his coaching career in Sheffield, England, as a player-head coach for the Elite Ice Hockey League’s Sheffield Steelers in 2010-11, leading the team to win a league championship his first season. He also has been an assistant coach for the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs and Toronto Marlies, and head coach for the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones.
This season, Simon said he plans to use his own style to build on the Griffins’ existing model of developing players. “Our fans can expect our players to compete hard every game and be prepared to play every game,” he said, adding, “I firmly believe players develop quicker in a winning environment.”
BEST PART OF YOUR JOB? I love being a part of a team. The relationships that are built and cultivated along the way are very important.
MOST MEMORABLE HOCKEY MOMENT? Playing in my first NHL game on Nov. 10, 2001. I played for the Atlanta Thrashers in Washington, D.C. against the Capitals. My parents and three brothers all were able to come to the game and see my dreams come true.
PROUDEST MOMENT? Becoming a father. I have two beautiful daughters that mean the world to me.
HOW DID YOU EARN YOUR FIRST DOLLAR? As a child, I caddied and was also a busboy at a country club.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME? I enjoy fishing and running in the off-season. I mix in a little golf but don’t have enough patience to play enough.
YOUR WORST HABIT? I am very organized and can be a bit of a “neat freak” at times.
BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED? The harder you work the luckier you get.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT GRAND RAPIDS? The people and the city. I have played for a lot of different teams in many different cities, countries and cultures. It has the amenities of all the big cities without the “big-city feel,” and the people are very down-to-earth.