TAMPA - If he enjoyed the high profile of, say, Michael Vick, imagine how many interest groups would have protested the Wild debut of Chris Simon.
Every entity opposed to violence, including Greenpeace, would have lined up outside St. Pete Times Forum on Wednesday night to decry Simon's repeated, cowardly, felonious assaults on fellow hockey players.
Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would have carried signs protesting Simon's use of a racial slur toward a black player during an NHL game.
Instead, Simon was allowed to skate anonymously Wednesday. That's too bad. He deserves all the ridicule we can muster, and so does his boss.
In one day -- Tuesday, the NHL trading deadline -- General Manager Doug Risebrough kneecapped the Wild with the two worst decisions in team history.
One -- the acquisition of Simon -- was embarrassing. The other -- failing to markedly improve a team begging for help, a team that might have a small window of opportunity to win a Stanley Cup in a balanced league -- was the continuation of a status quo that allows the Wild to sell tickets but not challenge for championships.
In one day, Risebrough managed to:
• Offend anyone of color who might have been a Wild fan. There might be racists in the NHL other than Simon, but anyone dumb enough to reveal his racism in the most public of places is as aggressively stupid as he is repugnant.
• Sully his franchise's well-deserved reputation as a family-friendly business. The Wild has done a masterful job of making the Xcel a safe, comfortable, ambient, rewarding place to take your kids. Now, if history repeats itself, your kids can watch Simon smash a stick into an opponent's face or try to amputate someone's leg with his skate.
• Give Marian Gaborik yet another reason to want to leave Minnesota. Gaborik is already annoyed by Jacques Lemaire's system and eager to play for an Eastern team. Now, with the team free-falling and begging for another scorer to help The Great Gabby, Risebrough fails to land a center. Or even a quality defenseman, which is another pressing need.
• Highlight the flaws of his Plan of Patience. Patience is great when there are dynamic prospects coming through the system, or when your best players are developing. The Wild could be forced to trade Gaborik this summer, could lose Brian Rolston and/or Pavol Demitra to free agency. Now is the time to try to win and reward the Wild's remarkably loyal fans.
• Fail to recognize that the Wild is close to being talented enough to win the West this year. Adding one talented center would have upgraded the team's talent and faceoff capabilities and bolstered what is reported to be flagging morale in the locker room.
"I liked what I saw tonight," Lemaire said, after Simon played for 7:42, with one hit and a minus-one rating.
How will he use Simon? "We'll see how it goes,'' Lemaire said.
Simon was acquired to make the Wild tougher, and he'll do that, if he avoids another suspension.
Violence is a big part of hockey, but there are rules even in Fight Club. Rule 1: Don't hit someone in the face with your stick. Rule 2: Don't use your skate as a weapon.
Real NHL tough guys, such as the injured Derek Boogaard, ascribe to a code. They protect their skill players. They drop the gloves with other fighters.
Simon, who made little overt impact on the game in his first game with the Wild, has followed no code. If you are the kind of neanderthal who believes that adding a "physical presence'' like Simon is palatable, ask yourself this question: What if Simon had taken his two-handed chop at Gaborik's face? What if he had tried to cut Brent Burns' leg? What would you think of him then?
That's what you should think of him now.
The Wild should be above this. And until this week, the Wild has been above this.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. firstname.lastname@example.org