January 28, 2014 at 12:10 AM
CHATHAM, NJ - The family story is that Teddy Simson would be carried into his bed at a very young age with his skates and skate guards still on.
"I've been playing hockey ever since I can remember," Simson said. "I started playing on a team when I was three. When I was born, I just wanted to play."
Frank Gilberti, his Chatham High coach, says that he saw Simson skate about three times before he pulled him aside and said: "You have an opportunity to be a really great player. I told him that by his junior year, you should be the best player in the Mennen Division."
Simson, now a junior, has been playing on Chatham's top line for three seasons and he's certainly making his mark in the Mennen Division for the Cougars, who take an 11-2-3 record into Tuesday's game against Morris Knolls.
Simson is averaging 1.5 points per game for Chatham with 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points.
Teddy Simson is the TAP Chatham Athlete of the Week.
"For me, the things that set him apart are his hustle, his heart, his smarts and his toughness," Gilberti said. "He plays with an edge and sometimes he's close to going over that edge and taking it too far. But he's done a real good job of keeping that in check and being more effective."
Simson's desire to improve his skills was evident during that freshman season. Simson and his teammates, Rob Graziano and Jordan Boles would show up early for practice at Mennen Arena to get in some extra work. Simson convinced his mother, Valerie, to drive them there for the extra free ice time.
"The lights would be off when we got there it was so early," Gilberti said. "They'd change in the bleachers and get out on the ice. I felt he was a leader since his freshman year. Every guy can see it."
Simson traces his desire to be the best from his older brothers, Will and Chip, who made him the goalie during their games in the basement.
"I think I became this way because of my brothers," Simson said. "They weren't the most gracious winners. I think that made me want to win and never give up. If I gave up as a little kid, they'd tease me even more. That just made me want to be the best. I always felt I had something to prove."
Gilberti likes to keep Simson in that mindset. Even though Chatham won the Public B state championship last season, his coach challenges him with what he hasn't accomplished yet.
"We talk more about how we lost in the first round to Glen Rock when he was a freshman than winning the state championship," Gilberti said.
Simson, whose goal is to play Division 1 ice hockey, doesn't need the extra motivation. He knows what it feels like to win and lose.
"The fear of losing drives me more than the ecstatic feeling of winning," Simson said. "I feel like I can always play better."
No matter what happens on Sunday, Simson is likely to feel ecstatic. That's when Chatham will play outdoors at Yankee Stadium against St. Peter's.
"I hope we're the Rangers on Sunday and not the Devils," said Simson, referring to the Rangers 7-3 victory over the Devils last Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
Simson recently learned that his travel coach has leukemia and needs help. If you can go here to donate.