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Bruin Uniform Suits Charlie Simmer Fine : Ex-King Seems to Be the Right Player in the Right Place--Cozy Boston Garden

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Times Staff Writer

Charlie Simmer got a rude welcome from King fans two weeks ago, when he returned to Los Angeles for the first time since he was traded to the Boston Bruins last October.

A sellout Forum crowd of 16,005 booed Simmer whenever he touched the puck. Simmer didn’t play well and failed to get off a shot.

“They weren’t really nasty,” Simmer said. “I expected to get booed because I had asked to be traded. I’m glad this is over.”

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Monday night, he got back at his old teammates, scoring the winning goal here in the Bruins’ 5-4 overtime victory.

Simmer, a 6-foot 3-inch, 210-pound left wing who led the Kings with 44 goals last season, made headlines last summer when he asked to be traded.

He was quoted by a Times sportswriter as saying that he didn’t want to play for a losing team, although he has said since that he was misquoted and that he asked to be traded only because the Kings would not renegotiate his contract.

Simmer reported late to the Kings’ training camp in Victoria, Canada, last September and made no secret of his not wanting to be in British Columbia. He was still with the Kings when the season opened, though.

“We aren’t going to give him away,” General Manager Rogie Vachon said at the time. “Other teams think they can steal him.”

Simmer was held out of the lineup for two of the Kings’ first three games because Coach Pat Quinn didn’t believe Simmer was giving full effort, and the situation came to a head Oct. 21 in Chicago, where Simmer scored his first goal of the season--his last as a King--in a loss to the Black Hawks. Quinn said that seven players weren’t putting out, and although he didn’t specify anyone, it was obvious that Simmer was included in that group.

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Simmer was dealt to the Bruins three days later for a first-round choice in the 1985 draft. Right afterward, the Kings, winless in their first nine games, went on a seven-game winning streak.

But Simmer also picked up the Bruins, who had been slumping. Boston won seven of eight games after Simmer joined the team. He scored eight goals in his first 11 games and had 16 points in his first 12 as a Bruin. In 33 games, he has 23 goals and 12 assists.

Hockey scouts say that Simmer, who has never been known as an outstanding skater, has been helped by playing in the Boston Garden, which has the smallest rink in the National Hockey League, 191 by 83 feet.

At any rate, everybody appears to be happy with the trade--the Kings, Simmer and the Bruins.

“It’s been a very gratifying feeling being here,” Simmer said. “Right from the start, everything seems to have worked out here.”

Well, maybe not everything. The Kings wouldn’t renegotiate Simmer’s reported $250,000-a-year contract, and the Bruins have said they won’t, either.

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General Manager Harry Sinden of the Bruins recently told a Boston newspaper: “Why should we pay for what he did in Los Angeles? What we have done is to create some incentives for him.”

Simmer appears to have accepted that, however. “Things are being done that are very fair to me,” he said. “I’m not worried about it. I’m trying to get established here and play good hockey.”

He also said he couldn’t be happier, and did a little dance as he walked into the Bruins’ locker room after a recent practice.

Simmer has also begun to settle down here. While he was playing for the Kings, he could go anyplace in Southern California without being recognized, he said. He has lost his anonymity in hockey-crazy Boston. Simmer’s agent has a pile of endorsement offers from companies here.

Just before Christmas, Simmer and his family moved into a house in a new subdivision about 30 minutes north of the city. He also bought a four-wheel drive pickup truck and now describes himself as a gentleman farmer. His house, on two acres of land, overlooks a small pond.

“It’s so different here than in L.A.” Simmer said. “I live about a mile farther from the Boston Garden than I lived from the Forum, but it takes me about 20 minutes less to get there.

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“And the people have been great. A guy did some work around the house and he told me he’d send the bill later. In L.A., you’d have to sign five pieces of paper and pay for everything in advance. The other day, I traded a guy a couple of tickets to a game for a cord of firewood that would have cost me $100 in L.A.

“People in L.A. said I would miss the Hollywood night life, but I never went out at night.”

If Simmer likes being with the Bruins, though, the feeling certainly is mutual.

“Charlie has played great,” said Bruin center Kenny Linseman, acquired by the Bruins in the off-season from the Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers. “We really needed a sniper. Without him, we’d be in a lot of trouble.

“When I played against him I thought he was just an opportunist who scored goals. But he’s a lot better skater than people give him credit for. I haven’t seen anyone catch him from behind on a breakaway.”

Said Boston Coach Gerry Cheevers: “He has been absolutely terrific. What can I say? He’s a classy guy and class always rises to the top.

“He picked us up at a tough time. I enjoy just watching him play.”

Said right wing Keith Crowder: “What’s really impressed me is that I didn’t think he was that good of an all-around player. We only used to see him three times a year when we played the Kings and I thought all he did was tap the puck into the net. But he can play defense, too. He plays every phase of the game really well.”

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Defenseman Mike Milbury said: “We’re glad to have him because of the way he started off. He’s made a big difference here. If it hadn’t been for Charlie and Kenny Linseman, we’d be in big trouble.

“Charlie is a very easygoing guy. We respect him not just for what he does on the ice but for the kind of person he is. He works hard on the ice and that is one of the qualities that is respected here.”

Said right wing Rick Middleton, who rooms with Simmer on the road: “At the time we got Charlie, we were struggling because we couldn’t put the puck into the back of the net and keep it out of our own net. When Charlie came, he fit right in and brought us back to respectability.”

Said defenseman John Blum, whose locker is next to Simmer’s: “Charlie has really been good for us. We were looking for a left wing who could score. I know he’s going to get 40 to 50 goals every season.”

Said center-left wing Tom Fergus: “We really needed him because we hadn’t been scoring. We were struggling bad in the early going. Charlie stands in front of the net and you can’t move him out. He doesn’t move until he puts the puck into the net or at least gets a couple of whacks at it.”

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