When you’ve been around hockey as long as Robert “Rip” Simonick, you’ll have more than your share of stories to tell. Always interesting in hearing about the old days, Buffalo Sabres forward Tyler Ennis has made spending time with the veteran equipment manager a part of his pregame routine.
He’ll sit down, have a cup of coffee with Rip and oftentimes not say much.
Simonick will soon be able to tell the tale of night he was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. That honor will be bestowed upon him Thursday night at a dinner ceremony at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
“I like to get in his ear and just listen sometimes,” Ennis said. “He’s got some funny stories. He’s been around forever so I think everyone’s proud of him and he definitely deserves it.”
The ceremony will be streamed live on the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s website. Simonick will be one of 12 Buffalo sports figures inducted this year.
“It’s quite an honor. I hope I represent this city well and the Buffalo Sabres,” he told Sabres.com when the Class of 2014 was announced. “It’s a lifelong dream to work this many years, a kid from 10 blocks away from the arena. I used to walk to the rink. I’ve been here a long time and obviously our goal is to win a Stanley Cup.”
WATCH: RIP REACTS TO BEING NAMED TO 2014 HOF CLASS
Simonick has been with the Sabres since the very beginning and is now in his 44th season with the club.
In 1970, Rip was hired by coach and general manager Punch Imlach to join the newly formed Sabres equipment staff. He started by running errands and doing grunt work for legendary trainer and fellow Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Frank Christie.
Current Sabres coach Ted Nolan has had the pleasure of working with Simonick on two separate occasions in Buffalo now. Nolan coached the Sabres during the team’s final year at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium – affectionately known as the Aud – and for the first year at what is now the Sabres’ current home, First Niagara Center.
What comes to Nolan’s mind when he thinks of Rip?
“I think of the Buffalo Sabres. I think of Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert, the French Connection. I think of the Aud. And Rip Simonick is right in that group,” he said, “You think of hockey in Buffalo, you think of Rip Simonick.
“It’s a great honor. Some of those people you meet in hockey, the legends of the game, sometimes they’re not just on the ice. They’re behind the scenes. Those are the guys who really do a lot of the work. You ask anybody in hockey, [the trainers are] the first ones at the rink, they’re the last ones at the rink.
“Rip’s been doing it for a long, long time and to see him get recognized in this fashion, it’s a great honor for him and it’s going to be a great privilege for us to be there for him.”
WATCH: BEYOND BLUE & GOLD: THE EQUIPMENT MANAGERS
Simonick is the longest tenured equipment manager in the NHL and has worked over 3,400 games. He has served on staff for three NHL All-Star games and two Stanley Cup Final series. He was inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame in 2000.