After being snubbed for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award two seasons in a row, Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ linebacker Simoni Lawrence is exploring other career options.
The energetic-talking football star has been busy drumming up publicity for the NHL’s Heritage Classic at Tim Horton’s Field and took the time to weigh his hockey options with a handful of Toronto Maple Leafs.
While each saw the linebacker’s potential, they couldn’t agree where Lawrence would best fit if he traded his cleats for skates.
“You would play right defence and you would just be a monster,” predicted face of the franchise centre Auston Matthews. “Nobody would want to come in front of the net.”
That would mesh with Lawrence’s hard-hitting style of play, but actual defenceman Justin Holl had a different vision for the CFL star’s future.
“I think you’d be a great goalie. Agile. Thick,” the Minnetonka native said, causing Lawrence to buckle over with laughter. “I mean that in the best way.”
While his teammates each saw the prospective hockey convert as best suited to a position other than their own, 1,000-game NHL veteran Wayne Simmonds imagined Lawrence as a player in his own mold.
“You’d be a power forward, like me,” he explained, seeing the parallels between linebacker and that role. “That’s what a power forward does, you go up and down the ice and hit people.”
“Or if you’re defenceman, when a guy’s coming down the wing, you just… booooom,” he added, mocking a hip check.
Historically, a number of CFL players have found success in the NHL ranks, but it has been decades since a real dual-sport star emerged. Matthews can see it happening if Lawrence can meet one essential criteria.
“You’ve just gotta skate. If you’re fast, you’ve got a chance,” said the NHL’s leader in goals.
Lawrence has always been plenty fast on the football field, but he may have one fatal flaw: an inability to stop. After confiding in Matthews that his skates have no brakes, the former first overall NHL Draft pick dismissed Lawrence’s concerns.
“You’ve just got to run into someone or something,” Matthews laughed.
As CFL opponents know well, nothing would bring Lawrence more joy.