We had a story in today’s Forum about former Force goaltender Mike Lee forgoing his senior year at St. Cloud State to sign with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Lee, 21, signed a three-year deal with the team and will play in the organization next season so he could focus on his college coursework. Lee admitted he wasn’t really worried about when he’d reach the NHL.
“I just want to work hard,” Lee said. “When it happens, it happens.”
It’s another example of how timing just happens to have a way with Lee given the way his career has played out.
Guy said yesterday he just had a feeling it was his time to leave. There was no sign or anything like that. It just hit him one day that it might not be a bad idea to pursue his professional career.
Considering what the guy has done over time, no one can blame him.
His resume is impressive. Lee’s work reads as if it should belong to someone older who has done this longer.
-He won a Minnesota state championship at Roseau, of all places, as a sophomore.
-As a junior he was 25-0 with a sub-1.00 goals against average heading into the Minnesota state hockey tournament. He and the Rams were a favorite to win but somehow finished fourth.
-When he left Roseau to play for the Force, it apparently resulted in his family facing the cold shoulder back home because this would have been his senior year.
-He came to Fargo leading the Force to a Clark Cup Finals appearance going 26-15-4 in his lone season.
-In 2010, he helped Team USA to a gold medal at the IIHF U-20 World Championships, the premier event for the world’s future hockey stars.
-Lee walks away from St. Cloud State playing 74 games with the Huskies in three seasons, going 32-29-9 with a 2.59 GAA and a .919 save percentage.
“I thought about it for a couple of weeks and just like any other major decision you weigh both ends of it,” Lee said of signing with the Coyotes in Friday’s Forum. “You decide what is best for your life. My family and I thought about it and decided this was a great opportunity.”
Signing a professional contract also does more than just give Lee and his family another item to be stoked about.
There’s this aspect of it: He could potentially become the next Roseau alum to play in the NHL which already features Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien and his Lee’s former teammate, Aaron Ness, who had a call-up with the New York Islanders this summer.
Once again, he’s in no rush but this time it is for a different reason.
“Whoa, whoa,” Lee said when asked about being the next possible Roseau alum to make it to the NHL. “There’s a lot of great company on that list. You are throwing something really heavy at me right now.”
Maybe it was a bit too early to ask that question or even raise that point.
Yet what can’t be argued is how Lee’s contract also sets the bar for anyone now wearing a Force jersey. This franchise has been around for four seasons and has now done everything but win a Clark Cup title.
Lee signing now sends a message that it is indeed possible for a Force player to sign a professional contract. Yet when he features in his first NHL game, it will probably resonate even more.
“It’s nice to look back on what we did that first year back in Fargo,” Lee said. “It’s nice to see what they are doing now too.”
With Lee, the Force can now state that it has a player who is closer to reaching the universal dream.
He’s not the only one. Former captain Luke Witkowski is a Tampa Bay draft pick who is heading into his senior year at Western Michigan. Witkowski said he’s returning for his senior year and could be the next one to sign a pro contract.
Then there’s more recent players like Witkowski’s current teammate, Garrett Haar, who is a Washington Capitals draft pick. There’s also Miami’s Jimmy Mullin, a fellow Tampa Bay draft pick.
And then there’s Lee’s perpetual and almost perennial former teammate, Nick Oliver, who is at St. Cloud State and was drafted by the Nashville Predators.
Now ask Lee about his time with Oliver and its clear it meant something.
“We’ve played together since we were in sixth grade,” Lee said of Oliver, who is now his former high school, junior and college teammate. “To have a close friend play with you for so long. It really is something special.”
Maybe Lee’s voice was getting shot from the interviews he did on Thursday.
But you could hear his voice become a little shaky when he was talking about Oliver and just how much it meant to have a friend always there with him.
Perhaps realizing it won’t ever be like that again could be a reason why his voice did sound a little shaky.
Its like lyricist Rakim once said, “I like the way it went down and all of that. In fact, it means a lot because you can’t bring it back. Remember that.”
Something says Lee certainly will remember where he’s been in order to know where he’s going.