Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds has always taken his career one game at a time. That got him to 1,000
There was a time Drew Doughty really hated Wayne Simmonds. It lasted about an hour.
Doughty is not sure what they were arguing about as they drove from the apartment they shared to defenceman Randy Jones’ house for Thanksgiving dinner in 2009. But it got heated.
“We were fighting, and he pissed me off in the car and I was driving, so I slammed on the brakes as a kind of an eff-you,” Doughty said in a phone interview with The Star. “Then he was like: ‘Don’t do that.’ And I did it again just to piss him off more.
“My phone was just sitting in the cupholder. He grabbed it and threw it out the window. That was the one time I was actually truly mad at him.”
Simmonds laughed at the memory Friday.
“It was hilarious,” Simmonds said. “He tried to kick me out of the car, too.”
Simmonds, the kid from Scarborough who faced long odds to make the NHL, and Doughty, the all-world defenceman from London, Ont., hated facing each other when the Owen Sound Attack played Guelph Storm. But they became fast friends in their time together, first at the 2008 world junior championship, where they won gold and then breaking into the NHL together with the Los Angeles Kings in 2009.
Simmonds, 33, will play his 1,000th NHL game Saturday when the Maple Leafs play the Vancouver Canucks. His best friend, Doughty, reached that milestone Jan. 27.
“We just became brothers right away in L.A.,” Doughty said. “We were rookies there together, we didn’t know what to expect … We were just running buddies, learning the ropes of NHL and we learned all about L.A. It’s kind of crazy that we’ve both played 1,000 games and in the same year.
“The way he plays — so physical, fights all the time, he’s had so many injuries that people don’t know about — to get to 1,000 games, it’s just unbelievable.”
Simmonds and Doughty spent plenty of time together. They attended movie premieres together, though they found that wasn’t really their thing. It was more about video games, ping pong, golf, whatever they could do to compete off the ice.
“We had a lot of battles as roommates,” Simmonds said. “It was always good, never bad. But we were so competitive, no matter if we were playing PlayStation or shooting pool or playing darts. Neither one of us wanted to give an inch.”
Simmonds visited Doughty in the summer in London, where Simmonds met his future wife. Doughty is the godfather of Simmonds’ oldest daughter.
“He looked out for me, I looked out for him,” Simmonds said. “I can’t say anything bad about the guy.”
While Doughty was destined for the NHL from a young age, Simmonds was not. He was playing Tier 2 junior hockey in Brockville, Ont., when the Leafs’ Sheldon Keefe was just getting into coaching as an assistant with the Pembroke Lumber Kings.
“I remember him clearly playing a very similar game,” Keefe said. “He had the puck a lot. He had skill and brought it to the net, but he was a fierce competitor. I can vividly remember one of our guys who was older than him trying to pick a fight with him, and it did not go very well for our guy.”
It was Simmonds’ season in Brockville that brought him to the attention of Mike Futa, then GM of the Owen Sound Attack. The Simmonds family was not wealthy and purchasing equipment was an issue, and playing Tier II could lead to a scholarship with a U.S. college team.
Futa convinced Simmonds and his family to give up the scholarship and try to get to the professional ranks though the OHL.