If your winter was marked by big changes, what would you do during the following summer?
Most people would look to relax, kick back and take it easy, and that is exactly the summer that Lightning defenseman Brian Lee has constructed for himself.
Lee was more than halfway through his fourth season as a member of the Ottawa Senators when the team’s head scout tracked him down in the weight room on February 27, an off-day for the team.
By noon, Lee was seated across from general manager Bryan Murray who told him he had been traded. By 5 p.m. he was on a plane to Tampa as member of the Lightning.
“It was a whirlwind,” Lee said. “But once I settled in I began to love it in Tampa.”
Lee didn’t know many of his teammates, although he had briefly met captain Vincent Lecavalier, and he knew none of the coaching staff.
“But the guys were really welcoming to me,” Lee said. “The management and coaching staff made me feel wanted and comfortable right away.”
Brian Lee enjoys weekends at his cabin on Detroit Lakes.
He played in 20 games after arriving in Tampa Bay, recording eight assists. It was enough for the club to like what they saw, and the team signed the 25-year-old Lee to a two-year contract this past June.
After the season Lee headed back to Moorhead, Minnesota, where he was born and raised and now owns a condo. Most of his days are spent performing workouts to prepare for the upcoming season, following the training program that Mark Lambert, the Lightning’s strength and conditioning coach outlined for him.
He does have some daily company in the gym, including his brother, John, who just signed a contract with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage along with Matt Cullen of the Minnesota Wild and Matt’s two brothers, Mark and Joe.
Weekends are spent at his cabin on Detroit Lakes, 45 miles due east of Moorhead, where Lee spends his days water skiing and wake surfing. There was some fishing earlier in the season, but he’s taking a pass on that lately.
“The walleyes were jumping into the boat earlier in the summer,” Lee said. “But lately it’s been so hot we haven’t even tried to catch anything.”
Relaxing is what it’s all about for Lee this summer, and with the rigors of the NHL season just ahead who can blame him?
“Having the place on the lake is terrific,” Lee said. “I just get away and enjoy myself there.”
But the thought of the upcoming season is never far from his mind, and the former first-round draft selection (ninth overall) in the 2005 entry draft is looking for a breakout year.
“Every time I step on the ice, I want to go out and prove myself,” Lee said. “So my philosophy is to work hard every shift and do what I can to help my team get a win.”
Growing up in Minnesota and playing collegiate hockey at the University of North Dakota and then in Ottawa as a pro should have conditioned Lee to enjoy living in frigid climates, but adjusting to the Tampa weather proved to be no problem.
“I didn’t mind it at all,” Lee said. “I thought it was pretty nice, not having to shovel the car out to get to the rink.”