Sean Simpson went to Europe more than 25 years ago to finish his playing career and the native of Brampton, Ont. is still making his mark there.
The latest feather in his cap was a near upset of Switzerland over Canada at the world hockey championship in Helsinki on Wednesday. Canada needed a goal from captain Ryan Getzlaf with 11 minutes and 58 seconds remaining to escape with a 3-2 win. Simpson is in his second year at the helm of the Swiss national team.
We wonder, with his success in Europe, if he's on the radar of some NHL teams. Two seasons ago, the Edmonton Oilers brought Ralph Krueger of Steinbach, Man. home to be their associate coach. He also preceded Simpson as Switzerland's national team coach.
Former Finnish national team coach, Alpo Suhonen, coached the 2000-01 Chicago Blackhawks, but that was after he was an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs. There never has been a European-based bench boss to jump straight to the NHL.
Simpson certainly caught the hockey world by surprise two-and-a-half years ago when he steered ZSC Zurich Lions to an upset 2-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks in the exhibition Victoria Cup in Sept. 2010.
'Honour and thrill'
"It obviously was an honour and a thrill for us just to play against a NHL team, and to actually win the game, well it was a great feeling," Simpson said back then.
"The boys had the right attitude, they had respect for the Hawks, but still went out and played their hearts out. It was a special night for Swiss hockey and Swiss sport."
Eight months later the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.
The 51-year-old Simpson is in the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame for his hockey and lacrosse exploits. He played three seasons for the Ottawa 67's on a high-scoring line with Yvan Joly and Jim Fox, for Canada at the 1980 world junior championship and he was drafted in the seventh round by the Blackhawks in 1980.
Simpson helped the New Brunswick Hawks win the 1981-82 AHL Calder Cup and then finished his playing career in Holland, Switzerland and Italy. He has been coaching in Europe for the 12 years with stops in Munich, Hamburg and Zug before taking over the Lions and the Swiss national team.
Simpson also was the head coach of the gold-medal winning Canadian team at the 2007 Spengler Cup and was runner-up at the same tournament in 2008. He also led the Lions to the Champions Hockey League title in 2008-09, and guided the Munich Barons to a German league title in 1999-2000.
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