Moments to Remember: Monsters Win it for Phil


BY: Lisa Ingwer, R.N., Sally Marvin and Tina Thonnings

CATEGORY: News and Community

For someone who never wore a beard in his life, Phil Simon decided to grow a beard during his last weeks of living. In the world of hockey, bearded athletes mean they earned the status of playing in the finals. 

For Cleveland's Lake Erie Monsters, the lucky playoff beards inspired just the right kind of synergy needed to win this year's Calder Cup. The inspiration came from Phil Simon, the equipment manager for the Lake Erie Monsters who in his last weeks of life joined the team in sporting a playoff beard.

Simon, cared for by Hospice of the Western Reserve's Lakeshore East [formerly Villa View Home Care] Team died on a Thursday and his Monsters played their fourth championship series game that following Saturday. 

Phil began working with the old Cleveland Barons Hockey Team when he was just 14. When he retired from AT&T (formerly Ohio Bell) in 1994, he started working in the equipment room at the former Gund Arena and then became the equipment manager for the new Lake Erie Monsters at "The Q," Quicken Loans Arena. 

His dedication to the sport earned him the title of "Cleveland Hockey Legend" by the Columbus Bluejackets. Phil-Simon-_1.jpg

Winning the Calder Cup: Phil is in the Building

The Lake Erie Monsters provided the family of avid hockey fans with a loge for the fourth and final game of the playoffs.

Phil and Rita Simon's four children and four grandchildren grew up with the sport and "every one of them is a fan or official," Rita said.

And although Phil passed away just days before the Monsters captured the Calder Cup, he was there in both memory and in spirit. 

With 1.9 seconds to go in overtime, the Monsters scored and won the championship. 

Phil-Simon-_2.jpg"Phil won it for the team.  He pulled some strings up there," Rita Simon, Phil's wife of 58 years said. The love of the organization and fans also helped.  

All around the arena, "Fat Heads" of Phil Simon waved encouragement and cheer.  Players' helmets were spotted with "Win it for Phil" stickers. For the talented Lake Erie Monsters, the beard on "#2," equipment manager inspired them to become a #1 team. 

After winning the big game, even the "Fat Head" of Phil got to drink from the revered Calder Cup. The players brought the cup to the funeral home and Phil's life was celebrated. "Everybody came," Rita said.. "Everybody… two busloads of hockey players and office staff blocked traffic in Wickliffe to attend the wake." Later, the trophy made it to the Simon's family church, St. Noel Catholic Church, for Phil's funeral. Phil and Rita's 15-year-old granddaughter carried the cup into the church.  

Rita said bringing Phil home in March to live out his life was "the best thing for him."

"He wanted it this way. I wanted it this way.  We were able to take care of him in our family home.  The hospice staff was really wonderful –LaVerne, Lisa and the others. During these last months, the guys from the team would come over and cry over Phil. For the eight months he was in and out of the hospital, his players came to visit him.  The Calder Cup was their final tribute to Phil. I'm sure he was up there helping them win it."

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