August 04, 2016

Peter Lee

Peter Lee goes down in junior hockey history as one of the all time greats.

Lee, who was born in Ellesmere, England but grew up in Arvida, Quebec - a small English community in the heart of Francophone Canada. His father was an English teacher, and also a former soccer star. He represented England in the 1948 Olympics.

But all three of his sons would be raised in Canada and fell in love with hockey. None were better than Peter, who had the strongest passion for the game.

After 10 years in Quebec the family would move to Hull, Quebec - now known as Gatineau - just across the river from Ottawa. Every young hockey player's dream in those pre-Ottawa Senators days was to play junior for the legendary 67s. The 67s have produced a lot of great players over the years, but few had more accomplished junior careers than Peter Lee.

Over four seasons he scored 213 goals - a OHL record until 2009 when John Tavares bettered the mark. In his last season in the OHL Lee scored an amazing 81 goals - also a new OHL record - and 161 points and was named as the top junior player in all of Canada.

The Montreal Canadiens drafted Lee with the 12th overall pick in the 1976 NHL draft.

Legendary Ottawa coach Brian Kilrea accredited all of Lee's success to this point to one simple trait - his hard work.

"He wasn't blessed with anything more than the average hockey player," says Kilrea, "except with the ability to work hard."

 "I do work hard," said Lee, who would strengthen his wrists and shot by shooting weighted hockey pucks in practice, "That's one quality I have. If you work hard and things don't work out, then you have no regrets."

No matter how hard Lee worked, he would soon find out how hard it was to crack Montreal's Stanley Cup dynasty lineup in the 1970s was. As good as a prospect as he was, he was farmed out for one season and then shipped off to Pittsburgh.

Mind you, Lee was more than just a throw in in a very large trade. Montreal traded Lee and Pete Mahovlich to Pittsburgh for Pierre Larouche and Peter Marsh.

The trade was good for Lee, who got a chance to play. Over the next six seasons he played in 431 NHL contests and scored 114 goals, including a couple of 30 goal campaigns.

But not all was well in Pittsburgh. Coach Eddie Johnstone was not a fan of Lee's.

"In his eyes, I hadn't done much with a lot. In mine, I'd done a lot with very little. The truth is, I didn't get much of a chance to play. I filled in holes for them when they had troubles, but as soon as everything was okay, I was always on the fourth line."

With free agency rules different back then, Peter Lee's only chance at reprieve was to go to Europe. Lee starred with Dusseldorf and finished career and then coached in Berlin.  He also briefly replaced Brian Kilrea as the coach of the 67's. He later returned to Berlin to be CEO of the hockey team. He also was an assistant coach for Switzerland at the 2006 Olympics.

No comments: