GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Ben Simon became the 11th head coach in Grand Rapids Griffins history on Tuesday when he was introduced by Detroit Red Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin during a press conference at Van Andel Arena.
Take a look at some highlights surrounding his hire as well as his coaching and playing career:
“Ben has earned this opportunity and I’m very happy for him as well as his wife, Beth, and his girls Meg and Kate. In reality, Ben has been part of one of the longest interviews in AHL head coach history, three years. Since the day we hired Ben as an assistant coach, he’s proved to be an invaluable member of the coaching staff. I believe Ben is one of the best young coaches in professional hockey. As he transitions from assistant coach to head coach, I’m sure success will follow. He possesses a work ethic that is second to none. He grinds every day. He makes sure the job gets done and it gets done right. He possesses an NHL-caliber level of attention to detail and preparation, both of which are skills that will make him a great head coach and allow him to develop the assistant coaches that are on his staff. Ben understands and is able to teach the game to the modern player and from Detroit’s perspective, this is imperative as we continue to rebuild and develop young players for the NHL. Ben is competitive and knows how to win.
Perhaps one of Ben’s greatest strengths is he’s very direct, clear and honest with players and what they need to do to improve to play at the highest level, and as well with management in terms of his player assessments. As great of a coach as Ben is, he’s an even better person.” – Ryan Martin
“I’ve been in the American Hockey League for a long time as a player and coach. I understand what these guys are going through and that’s what motivates me every day is to make these guys better, to help them achieve their dreams and to accomplish their dream of playing in the National Hockey League.
I also understand the history and success of this team and this organization. There’s a fine line in the American Hockey League between developing players and winning and this organization has a tremendous track record for doing both. I’m very well aware of that and the high expectations that accompany this job. The last two head coaches here, Jeff Blashill, Todd Nelson, have both won Calder Cups, so I’m very aware of that as well.
I’m looking forward to and going to embrace this challenge. They are high expectations but that’s a challenge to continue to maintain this culture that’s been here for so long.” – Ben Simon
Simon is the third former Griffin to become head coach, following Todd Nelson (played 1996-98; 99-00; 01-02; coached 2015-18) and Danton Cole (played 1996-00; coached 2002-05). During a 21-game stint in Grand Rapids during the 2006-07 season, he totaled nine points (4-5—9), a plus-one rating and 28 PIM. He skated in all seven of the team’s postseason games and recorded nine PIM as the Griffins were defeated by the Manitoba Moose in Game 7 of the North Division Semifinals.
Photo: Mark Newman
Simon, 39, is the seventh Griffins head coach to be employed prior to his 40th birthday (Dave Allison 37, Bob McNamara 36, Bruce Cassidy 35, Danton Cole 35, Greg Ireland 39, Jeff Blashill 38). He will turn 40 on June 14.
At the time of his hiring, Simon was the fourth youngest current head coach in the AHL at 39 years, 11 months and 22 days (as of June 5).
Simon is the sixth head coach of the Griffins to not have previous head coaching experience in the AHL, IHL or NHL. Previous Griffins coaches with head coaching experience in the AHL, IHL or NHL have gone on to post a 529-374-11-26-74 record (0.576) with the Griffins, while coaches with no experience have posted a 398-255-16-25-34 (0.598) mark.
As an assistant with the Griffins from 2015-18, he helped the team win its second Calder Cup in 2017 and post the third-most regular season wins in the AHL since 2015-16 with a 133-78-4-13 (0.621) record. Grand Rapids exceeded 40 wins and 90 points and reached the Calder Cup Playoffs during each of the last three seasons.
Photo: Mark Newman
As an assistant with the Toronto Marlies in 2014-15, helped the team finish second in the North Division with a 40-27-9-0 (0.586) record before losing to Grand Rapids in a decisive Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Simon made ECHL history during his lone season with the Cincinnati Cyclones in 2013-14. He helped the Cyclones capture the Eastern Conference championship and became only the second head coach in league history to reach the Kelly Cup Finals in his first campaign.
Congrats are in order for former #CincyCyclones head coach Ben Simon who has been named the new bench boss of @griffinshockey; @TheAHL affiliate of @DetroitRedWings! https://t.co/WA2UcYKXC7 pic.twitter.com/RQd5hOfOwo— Cincinnati Cyclones (@CincyCyclones) June 5, 2018
His AHL coaching career began as an assistant with the Rockford IceHogs from 2011-13.
Congrats to former #IceHogs assistant coach Ben Simon on being named the head coach of @griffinshockey!— Rockford IceHogs (@goicehogs) June 5, 2018
Simon was originally drafted by the #Blackhawks in 1997 & helped coach the #IceHogs from 2011-13.
Simon also served on the Marlies staff with Derek King in 2014-2015. pic.twitter.com/5J9yNF2JN0
As a player/coach of the Sheffield Steelers in the Elite Ice Hockey League in 2010-11, he helped the team capture the regular season championship with a 43-10-0-1 record (0.806).
Simon played 11 professional seasons (2000-11) and competed in the NHL, AHL, IHL, ECHL, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Selected in the fifth round, 110th overall, by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, Simon played a total of 81 career NHL games. He recorded four points (3-1—4) in 68 games with the Atlanta Thrashers from 2001-04 and appeared in 13 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005-06.
Photo: Getty Images
Simon won back-to-back league championships in 2001 and 2002, with both coming at the expense of the Griffins.
In 2000-01, he helped the International Hockey League’s Orlando Solar Bears capture the Turner Cup during the final year of the IHL. He tallied 20 points (8-12—20) in 77 regular season games before adding 11 points (6-5—11) in 16 postseason contests. Orlando defeated Grand Rapids in six games during the Eastern Conference Finals.
In 2001-02, he hoisted the Calder Cup with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. Simon scored 34 points (11-23—34) in 74 regular season games and five points (2-3—5) in 25 postseason games. Chicago ousted Grand Rapids in a decisive fifth game in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Simon helped Chicago return to the Calder Cup Finals in 2005 before falling in four games to the Philadelphia Phantoms.
Simon skated in 481 AHL games from 2001-08 and 2009-10 and amassed 188 points (78-110—188) and 535 PIM. He logged career highs in assists (24), points (37) and PIM (93) in 66 games with the Syracuse Crunch in 2006-07. Simon banked a career-high 15 goals in 2002-03 with the Wolves.
Simon’s AHL stats by team:
Chicago (2001-03; 2004-05) – 196 GP, 87 points (37-50—87), 192 PIM
Milwaukee (2003-04) – 18 GP, 4 points (1-3—4), 6 PIM
Syracuse (2005-07) – 122 GP, 58 points (22-36—58), 170 PIM
Grand Rapids (2006-07) – 21 GP, 9 points (4-5—9), 28 PIM
Springfield (2007-08) – 80 GP, 22 points (12-10—22), 88 PIM
Toronto (2009-10) – 44 GP, 8 points (2-6—8), 51 PIM
Photo: Getty Images
HISTORY OF WINNING
As a player or coach, Simon has advanced to the league championship series five times: 2001 Orlando, player; 2002 Chicago, player; 2005 Chicago, player; 2014 Cincinnati, head coach; 2017 Grand Rapids, assistant coach.
Photo: Dale Woltman/Chicago Wolves
Played four seasons (1996-00) at Notre Dame, totaling 130 points (44-86—130) in 144 games. He captained the Fighting Irish as a senior and led the team in assists with 19 while ranking second in points with 32. During his junior season in 1998-99, he was a CCHA Second Team selection after pacing the team in goals (18) and points (42). He led the Irish in points (37), assists (28) and PIM (89) in 1997-98. He still ranks among the Irish’s top 25 all-time scorers with 130 career points and is a part of Notre Dame’s All-Decade First Team for 1990-2000.
A native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, Simon twice played for Team USA at the World Junior Championships. In 1997 in Switzerland, he helped the Americans win the silver medal. In 1998 in Sweden, Team USA finished fifth.
Photo: Notre Dame Athletics
Simon is the first head coach in AHL history to have been born and raised in Ohio. Only two others were born in Ohio; Moe Mantha (Lakewood) and former Griffins coach Curt Fraser (Cincinnati) had fathers who were playing pro hockey in Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively, when they were born, but each was raised in Canada.
A great work ethic is one of the reasons the @DetroitRedWings want Ben Simon behind the bench for the @griffinshockey . They also love his ability to develop young players. #news8 #GoGRG https://t.co/Lc74lgg0ac— Jack Doles (@jackdoles) June 5, 2018