Multiple Clarkson Cups, the IIHF World Junior Championship, Pan American Games, IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship, and IIHF Women’s World Championships –
Don Simmons has a résumé most sports junkies would be envious of.
The retiree from Brampton, Ont., travelled to Kamloops, B.C., to volunteer at the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship, adding to his growing list of
Simmons first got involved in hockey decades ago, when his son played. “I found it was a good way to avoid being a ‘hockey parent,’” he explains. “I was a
trainer, a manager, a coach, depending on what his teams needed.”
After his son’s career came to an end, Simmons found that he had a gap in his life that used to be filled with hours spent at the rink. He decided to start
volunteering with the local women’s team, the Brampton Thunder.
A founding member of the National Women’s Hockey League of the late 1990s and then the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in the mid-2000s, Simmons has now
been with the Thunder for six seasons, spending most of them as the in-arena voice of the team.
Through the Thunder, Simmons became an advocate of women’s hockey, and looked to volunteer anywhere he could. He initially helped out at Clarkson Cups,
assisting in a variety of roles including security, ushering, ticket-taking, and even serving as the penalty box attendant. He recently attended the 2016
Clarkson Cup in Ottawa, again serving as the announcer.
He went to Ottawa to volunteer at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championship, and served as the bilingual announcer at the secondary rink there. He’s also
volunteered at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto, and the 2016 U18 Women’s World Championship in St. Catharines, Ont.
While most of his volunteer experience has been in Ontario, Simmons was excited to head to Kamloops for women’s worlds. “What an opportunity to see another
part of the country,” he explains. “I’m working a little bit of a holiday into it to, trying to catch some of the cultural things.”
So far, Canada’s Tournament Capital has left a good impression on Simmons. “I love it. Especially coming from Toronto to Kamloops. The people here have
been so welcoming and so friendly, it’s really been a great experience for me meeting all these different people.”
Walking around the streets of Kamloops has also allowed Simmons to reminisce a bit on some of the other events he’s volunteered at. “Walking around
Kamloops, you see players, officials, and other volunteers all over the place. I met Jessie Vetter and Meghan Duggan and we were chatting about the
Clarkson Cup and the Minnesota Whitecaps team. The next day, I ran into their parents and chatted about the same thing.”
With all of the events he’s worked at, Simmons definitely has some interesting stories to tell.
One of his favourites involves the Minnesota Whitecaps and the Clarkson Cup – and a bus that didn’t show up. “One year, after the Minnesota Whitecaps won,
they finished celebrating and went outside to catch their bus back to the hotel. But it turns out the bus wasn’t there. So myself and six or seven other
volunteers ended up piling the entire team and staff into our cars and driving them back to their hotel, with the Clarkson Cup in tow.”
At the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship, Simmons has served as the French announcer, sitting at ice level for most of the games at the Sandman Centre.
He enjoys watching Team Canada play, although he admits he has to maintain neutrality while announcing the line-ups, goals, and penalties. “It’s hard, I’m
a definite fan of Canada, but you have to maintain an air of neutrality during the games,” he explains.
Simmons is already looking forward to next season and the events he may volunteer for, whether in Ontario or elsewhere. For now, Kamloops will hold a fond
place in his memory as one of many stops on his volunteer tour.
“It has been a lot of fun, and the number of people in town who have stopped me and thanked me for volunteering, it’s been a really great experience.”