Bruins

Sportswriter who criticized Marc Savard addresses his controversial comments

Marc Savard Boston Bruins
September 2006: Marc Savard skates out on the rink for practice. Janet Knott/Globe Staff

Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun has acknowledged the contentious comments he recently made about former Bruins center Marc Savard.

“What I wrote about him was improperly worded and far too harsh,” Simmons said in a column published Saturday. “For that, I apologize.”

Simmons received significant backlash for comments from a previous piece, in which he recommended other members of the media not respond to Savard’s phone calls because he “basically disappeared” when his professional hockey career ended.

“Media called. Nobody answered,”  Simmons wrote in the story published last Saturday. “Now suddenly Savard is a media guy. My advice: If he calls, don’t answer.”

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Savard — who has begun making appearances on Sportsnet in Canada — experienced a tragic exit from the NHL after suffering two life-altering concussions during a period of 10 months. He never returned to the ice following the second incident and retired from the game seven years later.

The 40-year-old said Simmons’s remarks “hurt” because they targeted such an emotionally tumultuous time in his life.

“I spent many years dealing with some serious mental health issues and post-concussion symptoms,” Savard wrote in a statement on Twitter. “I did not withdraw myself from hockey or the hockey world by choice. I was not in a good place! I needed those years to heal.”

While Simmons seemingly recognized — and expressed some regret for — the insensitive tone of his language, he also explicitly noted he is not apologizing for the sentiment of his comments.

“For not welcoming new media members who have treated the industry disrespectfully, I don’t apologize,” Simmons said.

Read his complete remarks below:

When I first saw Marc Savard on television a while back, I was distressed about it, for the same reason I get disappointed when I see Bill Parcells or Jim Rice or John Tortorella or others who have treated the media with a certain disdain winding up in media positions on television or radio. If you don’t care for media, I’ve always thought, don’t be part of it.

Last week in this space, I wrote 27 words on Savard, the wrong 27 words it turned out, as I found out from the pointed and nasty reaction on social media. I personally don’t like the way he ignored the emails from a Hall of Fame writer from the Boston Globe over the years, or the calls from the late Steve Harris from the Boston Herald, or other attempts to talk to him — USA Today, Globe and Mail, and many others tried — after his career ended early with the Boston Bruins when other media members would see him in rinks while coaching minor hockey and he would barely say hello. That’s my opinion.

I understand he had, and may still, have concussion issues. I particularly understand his battles with mental health issues. For more than 20 years, I have battled anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, claustrophobia: You don’t ever completely understand how this can take over your life until you experience it yourself.

What I wrote about Savard had nothing to do with concussions or his personal battles. But what I wrote about him was improperly worded and far too harsh. For that, I apologize. For not welcoming new media members who have treated the industry disrespectfully, I don’t apologize.