April 18, 2008

Gary "Cobra" Simmons

Goalie masks of the 1970s may be downright primitive, but many cultivated a special lore in the game's history. Gerry Cheever's "Stitches" mask, Gilles Gratton's "Lion" mask and Ken Dryden's "Target" mask are among the most famous and favorite masks of all time.

The mask belonging to Gary Simmons developed and maintains quite the cult following, too. Adorned with a scary cobra snake, Simmon's had his mask painted to represent his well known nickname.

While Gary Simmons career landed him nowhere near inclusion in the Hockey Hall of Fame, his famous mask is prominently on display in the blessed museum.

Born in Prince Edward Island but raised in Lethbridge, Alberta, he grew up dreaming of being like his idol Gordie Howe. He played forward as a youth, until one day the team's goalie did not show up. Simmons went in net, never to leave.

Developing a fondness for Glenn Hall of the Chicago Blackhawks, he would play junior hockey in Alberta but he was reluctant to turn pro. He would actually end up returning to the Canadian maritimes to play senior hockey in Newfoundland. He was paid twice as much money to play in Conception Bay than to play in the NHL's low minor leagues.

With further NHL and WHA expansion, as well as the increasingly common use of two goalies per team, Simmons had a chance to play pro in the old Western Hockey League. After a stint with the San Diego Gulls, he joined the Phoenix Roadrunners for the 1973 and 1974 seasons.

It was in Phoenix where Simmons was given the handle "Cobra." A local reporter compared his flopping play to that of a snake. Teammate Bob Barlow dubbed him "Cobra."

His play may have been flopping, but he was quickly gaining NHL attention. The California Golden Seals signed Simmons in 1974. He would play admirably in his first two seasons, splitting the puck stopping duties with Gilles Meloche. Simmons appeared in 74 games, winning just 25 of them.

Still, he was in the NHL. Joining the LA Kings in 1976 where he would remain in the league until 1978. Backing up the great Rogie Vachon, Simmons rarely got a chance to play in Los Angeles.


Anonymous said...

Good to see the Cobra finally here!

Did you know that, due to an artist's error, the cobra on Simmons' mask had rattlesnake rattles on it?

Les Barber said...

The "Cobra" was not only a Great NHL Goalie, he was one of the better Hitters of All Time in Fastpitch Softball, he could also Pitch and his other Calling was a Comedian, the Man is Flat out Funny, check his Tattoos he led the NHL in Tat's, one on his Ass says "Your Name" and yes he did torment those who would bite on it! Oh I forgot to mention what this great NHL Goalie did in the Summer for fun-----Ride Bulls, true story! A great Canadian and rough and tough and hard to bluff!