BISMARCK, N.D.–When Mitch Simmons was three years old in Raleigh, N.C., he tagged along to a local rink because his friend wanted to try out skating. While there, Mitch saw people playing hockey and was immediately interested. 15 years later, the Bismarck Bobcats have tendered the big defenseman from Alexandria, Minn.’s Northstar Christian Academy.
Simmons, who has grown to 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, has traveled far from home to continue his hockey career and face tougher competition long before joining the Bobcats. As a youth hockey player, his teams often traveled north to play better teams. At age 15, Simmons made a substantial life decision, renting an apartment with his mother in Pittsburgh to join the Penguins’ elite program.
“Hockey is just so much bigger there,” Simmons said. “The players are a lot better and the competition is a lot stronger. That was for sure a big change.”
Uprooting life to live 500 miles away is a great deal different than simply visiting. Simmons views that move as a much-needed step, as a hockey player and a man.
“I think it was all worth it,” Simmons said. “My mental toughness just got a whole lot better from that process.”
Simmons’ career then took him to Northstar Christian Academy, a preparatory school that current Bobcats Calvin Hanson and Blaise Miller once called home, along with numerous other former Bobcats and current NAHLers. Simmons credits the daily grind of a Northstar hockey player for developing his work ethic, which he considers his strongest asset.
“He is a player who has a lot of good attributes that are structured to be in a Division I college hockey player,” head scout Niko Kapetanovic said. “We are lucky to have him. I know a lot of teams were after him.”
Those attributes are solid both defensively and offensively for Simmons, who considers himself a two-way defenseman without preference for either side. While the expectations are high in the North American Hockey League and Simmons’ expectations are higher for his own play, he plans to come to Bismarck with no predispositions.
“I plan to just take it all in and be the best I can.”