Anders Lee and his journey from football talent to NHL star

Munich / New York – Anders Lee is the identification figure for the New York Islanders (Sunday at 18.45 against the Philadelphia Flyers, live on ProSieben MAXX and ran.de). Since his first NHL game nine years ago, he has never played for any other team. He has led the team as captain since 2018.

Its great strength: efficiency. With 23 goals, he is the second best goal scorer on his team. The winger has committed to the franchise through 2026 and earns $ 7 million a season. No Islanders player earns more.

If the American had not decided to play ice hockey, he might have lived as a quarterback today. Lee was considered in his school days, he went to Edina High School in Minnesota, namely as an excellent football talent. “I loved football,” he says, looking back.

A mix of Tim Tebow and Russell Wilson

Lee was not only an effective thrower, but also matched the type of modern quarterback with his mobility.

“I would probably describe myself as a lame high school buoy,” he says in retrospect. “I was not driving a 4.4 or anything. I was just trying to play, run and pass guys freestyle.”

Lee has been showered with awards including 2008 Minnesota Gatorade Football Player of the Year and Star Tribune All-Metro Player of the Year awards. Football player Lee was courted by many top universities.

Nick Rallis, who is now the linebacker coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, was his companion and played with him in high school. He believes Lee could also be on the field in the NFL today: “When I see Russell Wilson, I see many similarities in the way Anders would use his athletics.”

The NHL teams had reservations about his football career

But Lee chose skates and rackets. “It’s always been clear that ice hockey would be my way,” he says. So he was a candidate for the 2008 NHL Draft. That he was first selected at position 152 was not least due to his secondary role as a football player. After all, there was a danger that he would suddenly shift focus to football.

Garth Snow, the Islanders’ general manager at the time, recalled: “It was a very unique case and I think that was what deterred most teams.” Snow, on the other hand, was confident in Lee’s qualities and took the risk: “He was powerful and strong. The biggest question mark was his skating. But we felt he had enough character and drive for us to improve.”

After finishing school, he first played in the highest American junior league, the United States Hockey League, before enrolling at the University of Notre Dame. He made his NHL debut in April 2013.

Failed twice in the semifinals with the Islanders

He has been through ups and downs with the Islanders ever since. In the last two seasons, they failed in the semifinals of the final Stanley Cup winner Tampa Bay Lightning. This season, the distance to the playoff spots is already great. That said, the Islanders have been on a strong run, winning four of their last five games.

“We fight and we give everything in every fight,” Lee says. “We just try to keep making these good matches. When you start getting results and feeling good about yourself and your team play, everything gets a little easier.”

Although he is one of the best ice hockey players in the NHL today, his former schoolmate Rallis still looks at him with different eyes: “He’s my quarterback, and he will always be my quarterback.”

Oliver Jensen

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