After finishing his final year of major junior hockey in his hometown of Cranbrook, B.C., 21-year-old goaltender, Payton Lee, is now playing his rookie season with the SAIT Trojans.
Lee played six years of hockey in the Western Hockey League (WHL), starting with four years with the Vancouver Giants, one year with the Edmonton Oil Kings before being traded to the Kootney Ice for his final year.
“This last year getting traded back home, playing for my hometown team was pretty special,” said Lee.
“Obviously, we didn’t make play offs, but it was pretty special playing my last junior game at home.”
Lee, who went to play for the Giants at 16 years old, spent five years living away from home and with billet families.
“My experience in the WHL was pretty awesome,” said Lee, who finished his final season with a 0.894 save percentage.
“It was a good experience to get away from home and get some life experience.”
Like many hockey players, Lee enjoyed playing in front of large crowds, which was one of his favourite things about playing in the WHL.
His first year with the Vancouver Giants was the lockout year for the NHL, which resulted in big crowds at the major-junior team’s games.
“It’s always fun to play in front of lots of people,” said Lee, who also enjoyed playing at the Saddledome against the Calgary Hitmen when they were hosting special events.
In addition to the to the crowds of people in the stands, Lee loves getting involved with the community, especially going around to schools and interacting with young kids, talking about sports and the importance of school.
“It’s a pretty awesome feeling to like have an influence on the young kids,” Lee said.
He remembers seeing how happy the kids were to see him and his teammates and remembers having the Kootney Ice players visiting his classes when he was a young kid.
“I always tried to put pretty big onus on showing them [the kids] a lot of attention and really showing that you care while you’re there.”
Lee started playing hockey at a young age, and ended up going in net simply because somebody had to.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of players back home, Cranbrooks not the biggest city but somebody had to be goalie, I was decent at it,” Lee explained.
Playing the goalie position has taught Lee a lot about how to handle pressure. Goaltenders face a lot of pressure as, unlike the rest of the players on their team, they play the entire 60 minutes of the game.
However, that happens to be Lees favourite aspect of being the man in net.
“You have a chance to have a major outcome of the game, because you are out there for the full 60 minutes,” said Lee.
If the goalie doesn’t play well, the chances of the team winning the game are low, said Lee.
As Lee journeys, further into his experience with SAIT, he has enjoyed going back to school.
“It’s good to use your brain and apply yourself more than just playing hockey every day,” said Lee.
“It keeps you sharper.”
With having a lighter hockey schedule at SAIT than he did in the WHL, Lee has been enjoying giving his body a bit of a break.
“In practice now you can give more effort, because you are not worn down and tired,” said Lee, who has gone from a team playing 70 plus games a season to a team that plays 28 games.
After earning four win in their first four regular season games, Lee said he hopes they will have a good momentum moving forward into the season.