In her fourth season with the Brampton Thunder, Dania Simmonds is one of the longest serving members of the current roster. Selected in the landmark 2012 CWHL Draft, Simmonds has established herself as a solid stay-at-home defender, providing the blueline corps with dependability and strong leadership.
Heading into the 2015-16 campaign, one milestone that eluded Simmonds was her first goal in CWHL play. During an October 25, 2015 contest against the arch rival Toronto Furies, she would simultaneously achieve two coveted milestones.
With 13:12 remaining in the second period, Simmonds logged the elusive first career CWHL goal, scoring on All-Star goaltender Christina Kessler. Providing the Thunder with a 4-0 advantage, Becca King and Kristen Richards (along with Rebecca Vint, both won a national ball hockey championship with the Toronto Shamrocks) would earn the assists on Simmonds milestone goal.
Although the Thunder eventually prevailed by a 6-3 tally, as both teams combined for an astonishing 104 shots, Simmonds’ goal stood as the game-winning tally, another cherished CWHL first. Adding to her jubilation was the fact that her first career goal was scored on home ice.
“Throughout my career, my strengths have been to defend and set up plays, not score. Coming from a hockey family with three older brothers who played at the highest levels and all had “gifted hands”, scoring was always a topic of discussion.
Playing in the CWHL with and against the best female players in the world, scoring chances do not exactly present themselves as readily as they may have earlier in my career. It means a lot to me to have finally obtained that “first goal” puck, and as of this interview, I have actually scored my second goal!”
Throughout her playing career, Simmonds has always employed a resiliency and dedication towards the collective goal of team success. The confidence shown in her has been exemplified by the letters on her sweater throughout the seasons. From competing at the high school level in Aurora, Ontario (north of Toronto), to playing at the NCAA level with the Union College Dutchwomen, her impact as a team captain is significant.
During her career at Union, Simmonds would blossom into more than just a leader, but a cornerstone for the program. Earning the Dutchwomen’s Most Improved Player Award in 2010 (sharing it with Perri Maduri), she would graduate as the recipient of the Coaches Award in 2012, testament to her team-first approach.
“I have worn the “C” or “A” or even “black armband” (soccer!) For most teams I’ve played for throughout my sports career but I learned early that leaders are not only the people with a letter on their jersey. Playing with the Thunder, there are many people aside from the captains who demonstrate leadership and I believe I am one of them.”
Such leadership has also extended off the ice. During her NCAA career, the honor of the Ashley Kilstein Award for Community Service bestowed upon her. As a side note, the Dutchwomen have a growing legacy of graduates in pro hockey. Rhianna Kurio has competed with the Calgary Inferno, competing against former teammate Simmonds. Ashley Johnston, an alum of the now-defunct Burlington Barracudas is one of two Dutchwomen (along with goaltender Shenae Lundberg) competing with the New York Riveters.
Simmonds’ love of the game also extends to developing a new generation of elite hockey talent. Having served as a Director of Girls Hockey for Pro Hockey Development Group, which involved recruiting promising talent for European invitational tournaments, it is an example of her solid work ethic. Currently, she balances her playing career with a prominent role on the coaching staff of the Canadettes Bantam AA Sadler squad.
“Coaching is a passion of mine when it comes to girls’ hockey. It is personally satisfying to see the girls that I recruited, coached, and traveled with develop and excel under my guidance.”
Equally satisfying to Simmonds is the Thunder’s hold on second place heading into the CWHL’s holiday break. While the complexion of the Thunder has changed throughout the last four seasons, Simmonds has remained a constant, bringing a confident smile and a joyful approach to the game, establishing a presence among her peers.
Considering that Simmonds is one of the few holdovers from the last Brampton roster that qualified for the Clarkson Cup playoffs (in 2013), she is eager to help the squad continue their remarkable run in the season’s second half. In reflecting on competing in the 2013 playoffs, it proved to be a cherished time in Simmonds’ career as it represented a significant achievement that brought a memorable end to her rookie season.
As the 2015-16 edition of the Brampton Thunder have a perfect blend of youth, experience and high energy, the results have been substantial. The result is a great team culture, one that has made Simmonds enthusiastic and charismatic to be part of such a rejuvenating time in franchise history, as the club looks to restore its glory days of years past, while making some new winning memories.
“It is tough to pick a favourite moment as we are never the same year to year. I really enjoyed the Clarkson Cup experience in my first year with the Thunder. Since then we have had great leadership and camaraderie on the team and I consistently look forward to coming to practice and games not only to play, but to interact with my teammates. Getting my first goal is definitely up there on the “favourite moments” list now!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Jess Bazal