Grier says Simon's OK at heart

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- Chris Simon is in very hot water - but Mike Grier isn't about to make matters any worse.

While some might expect Grier to come out of the woodwork and criticize Simon for giving the league another black eye, nothing could be further from the truth.

Although Simon hurled a racial insult at Grier at the end of an Oilers-Capitals game in 1997 in Landover, Maryland, there were kind - almost sympathetic - words coming from Grier yesterday.

"I played with him for a couple of months in Washington and he is a good guy," said Grier, who is now a member of the San Jose Sharks.

"I think at heart he is a good guy.

"I think it is a situation where he kind of lost it for a moment (earlier this week) and he is going to pay for it now."

Simon swung his stick and connected near Ryan Hollweg's jaw on Thursday night.

Sharks head coach Ron Wilson was behind the Washington Capitals bench the night Simon insulted Grier.

He still remembers the night vividly, but like Grier, isn't publicly lashing out at Simon for his latest ugly mistake.

"The only incident he had when I coached him was the incident with Grier," recalled Wilson yesterday.

"And I made sure he apologized as soon as he could."

Wilson didn't even know the incident had happened until the media informed him after the game.

It was then that Wilson hauled Simon into his office.

"He was very contrite and said he goofed," continued Wilson.

"I said: 'Of all people to utter any kind of racial epithet it shouldn't be someone who has had it hurled at him.'

"He was in agreement.

"I said if you can go over and apologize now, which he couldn't because the Oilers didn't want (him) coming over now."

That led to a unique apology in Toronto a few days later when Grier traveled from Buffalo to meet Simon.

"So we flew him into Toronto to personally meet with Mike and apologize, which was the right thing to do," said Wilson, who actually coached Simon for five years.

"That was the only incident I ever had with Simon with regards to a suspension."

Not surprisingly, Simon issued a public apology to Hollweg yesterday which the NHL actually placed on its website.

SHORT HIT: It has been 13 days since Ryan Smyth was dealt to the New York Islanders, but it is still a topic that follows the Oilers everywhere they go.

Wilson weighed in on the topic yesterday, one day after Chris Pronger offered his thoughts.

"There is obviously a huge emotional hole in kind of like the team's soul," said Wilson.

"They haven't won a game without him."

FINISH LINES: The Sharks still get great support at the box office, but the local media coverage can sometimes be lacking.

"Oh my God, there are four people to talk to today (in my office)," Ron Wilson joked at the sight of the Edmonton media contingent rolling in yesterday.


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