While most of the Islanders went home for the summer, forward Anders Lee decided to make Long Island his.
The Minnesota native opted to stay put this offseason, choosing the city and suburbs over the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Lee went golfing in the Hamptons, watched Fourth of July fireworks by the Brooklyn Bridge and took in Billy Joel’s final show at Nassau Coliseum. He even went to pizza school in Manhattan and learned how to make an authentic pie.
A weekend in Montauk is still on the to-do list, but after signing a four-year deal in June, he’s got a few more summers to get out to The End.
“I’ve been on the island all summer,” Lee said. “No doubt in my mind, this is where I wanted to be. This is where I’ve come to call my home and I couldn’t be more excited about the next four years here. What we have in the locker room and the guys I call my teammates and friends. There’s a good future ahead of us.”
Lee, whose future looks bright after a 25-goal rookie season, got a glimpse of what lies ahead when he led a tour of the new Islanders locker rooms currently under construction at Barclays Center. Lee still has to close his eyes to imagine the finished product, but he likes the foundation of the sprawling facility and doubts any expense, luxury or comfort was spared.
“The sheet rock was up and the outlines of the walls were in place,” Lee said. “The cosmetics have to be done, but you could still get a feel for what it’s going to be like. I know I’m looking forward to it and everyone else is. It’s going to be a really nice spot for us and it’ll make the transition easier.”
What does he like best about the new digs?
“I’m excited about the seating arrangement,” he said.” You can see everyone on the team and talk to everybody at one time. That’s where we spend the majority of our time and during big games that’s where we convene and figure things out.”
The locker room was designed as an oval so the players could look each other in the eye, communicate more freely and pick each other up in gut-check moments.
As attractive as the state-of-the-art campus will be, Lee’s driven to get back out on the ice and recapture the raw intensity and emotions of an NHL game, something that can’t be replicated in summer workouts.
“Being in front of the fans and scoring a goal; that feeling you get and going into the locker room after a win. That’s what you get excited about,” Lee said.
Lee knows the feeling well. His short Islanders career has been a successful one with 35 goals in his first 100 games. His success comes from his ability to get to the front of the net, create traffic, battle and bang in loose pucks. He’s working on his explosiveness to take his game to another level.
“Everything is coming together right now. We’re still a month away, but I feel ready to go,” Lee said.
Lee will finish the summer with a few weeks of training in Minnesota and a professional alumni camp at the University of Notre Dame. Call it a business trip. Home and work are here now.