Former Spuds standout John Lee excited for Hockey Day game against Gophers
Coaches have plenty to say about John Lee. For example, they say he has plenty to say. Except for the day when it was announced that Hockey Day Minnesota, which is Saturday, would be in Moorhead. "Most of the older guys talked," said Lee, a Moorh...
Coaches have plenty to say about John Lee. For example, they say he has plenty to say.
Except for the day when it was announced that Hockey Day Minnesota, which is Saturday, would be in Moorhead.
"Most of the older guys talked," said Lee, a Moorhead High School graduate who is now a junior defenseman for Denver University. "I just kind of hung out in the back with some friends of mine."
On the ice, however, Lee can't help but be heard, and Denver hockey coach George Gwozdkey says that's a good thing.
"I think right now in our locker room he is considered one of our leaders," Gwozdkey said. "That is by the way he plays and what he says on the ice."
Lee could have plenty to say and display when No. 4 Denver plays at Minnesota on Saturday for the third televised game on Hockey Day Minnesota.
The first two televised games are high school games being played outdoors in Moorhead pairing Roseau against Wayzata and Moorhead against Hill-Murray.
Lee, 22, has helped Denver become one of the nation's top teams this season. Gwozdkey says Lee is a smart player who has a good, physical presence and he's solid on both ends of the ice.
That was evidenced when Lee returned to Moorhead over winter break and trained with the boys hockey team daily.
Yet, it's Lee's voice that makes the difference.
"I think it makes the game a lot easier," Lee said. "And by doing it, it helps our teammates and you want to help in any way you can."
Lee said being vocal is something he learned when he was younger. He said youth coaches got it in his head early that being loud on the ice helps.
That is one quality that has helped his game over the years, said Lee's brother, Brian, who plays for the Ottawa Senators.
"He's a real dependable player and plays hard every night," Brian Lee said. "A guy like that is one that a coach always likes. It builds more and more confidence in him and I think he is a dependable player that will not let you down."
His vocal presence and ability is why he played in 39 games as a freshman, the most among Pioneers defenseman that year. Last year, he was the only defenseman to play in all 41 games.
That's what Lee brings to the table heading into Hockey Day. But how much of an impact does Hockey Day Minnesota play?
Gwozdkey said Lee is probably looking forward to playing a good game, whether it is Hockey Day or just another Saturday at Mariucci Arena.
"I am sure we will find out more about it and it might make it extra special for those guys on our team from Minnesota," Gwozdkey said. "Right now, I just think the anticipation of playing the Gophers at Mariucci is all we need to worry about."
Lee said he was excited, but more honored than anything, to know he'll have a part in Hockey Day Minnesota.
Part of that is because Hockey Day is in his hometown. The rest of it has to do with Lee's game being the bridge from the Moorhead game to the Minnesota Wild game, which features Moorhead High School graduate Matt Cullen.
"I think it will be great," Lee said about Hockey Day. "Like I said, I am jealous that they get to play in an outdoor game. I think it is good for the high school teams and I hope that they get a lot of fans."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548