In the first meeting between the New York heavyweights since the Islanders' Simon received a 25-game suspension for a stick-swinging attack against his Rangers counterpart on March 8, the teams engaged in a fight-filled preseason game Monday night that had all the venom of a contest that counts.
The tone was set 51 seconds in when Andy Sutton leveled Rangers forward Ryan Callahan with an elbow in front of the penalty box. When emotions totally spilled over midway through the second period, Hollweg and Simon fought as did goalies Rick DiPietro of the Islanders and Rangers backup Al Montoya.
Sutton received only a minor for elbowing. Then he fought Colton Orr right after his breakaway chance upon leaving the penalty box.
"To me it looked like a real deliberate elbow to the head," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "From that point on I thought to myself, 'OK, this might be interesting."
The Islanders won 5-4 on Mike Comrie's goal at 3:02 of overtime, but that was merely an aside. All eyes had been on Simon and Hollweg to see if a score would be settled for Simon's vicious hit on Hollweg that didn't cause serious injury but could have.
"When I talked to [Mike] Sillinger, I asked if there would be any overflow from last season," new Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. "He said that it was over. He was kind of wrong."
In the rematch, Simon took a hard hit from Hollweg behind the Rangers net early in the second period. After the whistle, the two came together -- as they did in the opening frame to draw roughing penalties -- jawed, and exchanged stick jabs.
"We got matched up a couple of times, and it's two hard guys going at it," Hollweg said. "The league had taken care of what had happened and it's behind me. I'm just playing my game."
Orr stepped in to defend Hollweg and dropped gloves with Simon. That was merely the undercard.
With 11:49 left in the period, Hollweg landed a heavy hit behind the Islanders net on defenseman Freddy Meyer and was whistled for a penalty. Simon charged Hollweg from behind and set off a brawl.
Orr fought Kip Brennan, and Hollweg and Simon tangled. Rangers forward Jason Strudwick, who fought Brennan in the first period, jumped Simon. Islanders forwards Jeremy Colliton and Andy Hilbert joined the fray that drifted toward DiPietro's crease.
DiPietro grabbed Strudwick from behind and gave several tugs, trying to pull the Rangers forward away -- planting his glove in his face. Strudwick fell on Hilbert, and DiPietro kept pulling until he saw Montoya skate from his crease.
"When [Simon] is trying to fight two guys at once, then I had to step in," DiPietro said. "All you're thinking is to help your teammates. It was a crazy game. A lot of crazy stuff happened. One good thing is that we're fighting for each other."
DiPietro squared off in a position ready to fight, removing his gloves and mask and pulling up his sleeves.
Montoya, who hasn't played in a regular-season NHL game, skated past DiPietro and seemed to not be interested in fighting or unsure of what to do. He had one fight last season in the AHL.
DiPietro, who fought former Islanders teammate Arron Asham in practice last season, signaled to Montoya to take off his gloves and mask as if to teach him the tricks of the trade. With a wide grin on his face, DiPietro grabbed Montoya and punches flew.
"You've got to defend your teammates," Montoya said. "The second you cross the blue line, that's what is going to happen. He's a tough guy, but at the same time he was going out of his way to try and start something. So, I just had to do my part."
As Montoya lost his balance, DiPietro pulled him and the two fell with Montoya on top. DiPietro quickly jumped up and landed on top as punches continued.
Both goalies were penalized for leaving the crease and ejected. Strudwick and Orr along with Simon and Brennan were kicked out of the game that featured at least six fights. Simon was also given a major penalty for charging.
"This was not the gong show that we're sort of depicting here," Renney said. "It was a preseason game.
"Somehow I don't think when two points are on the line you're going to see a whole lot of that."
Simon, who wasn't in the dressing room after the game, is allowed to play in the preseason despite having to sit out five more regular-season games. He missed the final 15 regular-season games and the Islanders' five-game loss to Buffalo in the playoffs. The ban was the longest in terms of games missed in NHL history.