Anders Lee, a six-foot, three-inch forward for the New York Islanders, is the definition of perseverance and humility: he was drafted 152nd overall in the NHL Draft and has had to work for everything he has accomplished in his life.
A three-sport athlete in high school, Anders Lee chose to pursue his dream of being a professional hockey player, and even now that he is one of the best players in the NHL playing for the New York Islanders, he still looks to others when putting his life in perspective.
Last year, Lee wrote an article titled “Hockey Players Aren’t Tough” for the Players’ Tribune, which is a website run by Derek Jeter that features journals from professional athletes. In his article, Lee details a moment that changed his life forever: watching Fenov Pierre-Louis give a speech about Stage IV neuroblastoma, a very rare nerve cancer that leads to intense chemotherapy.
Stronger Than I’ll Ever Be
In this speech, Pierre-Louis recalls “watching his mother cry when he was diagnosed,” yet smiling because he knew he could overcome his diagnosis. Lee is quick to point out that “Pierre-Louis is stronger than I will ever be.”
Lee broke his leg two seasons ago in the heart of a playoff race, but he calls this part of the grind and looks to others as people who, in his eyes, are actually strong.
Pierre-Louis is the “most inspirational person [Lee] knows” which has given Lee, a popular athlete in the New York area, an opportunity to highlight heroes like Pierre-Louis and raise money for cancer victims.
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Anders Lee founded the “Anders Lee Kancer Jam,” an event where he and his fellow teammates play a KanJam tournament where the winner gets a trophy, as well as a special gift basket.
To participate in the event, people must fundraise as teams a minimum of $2,500 that goes towards the charity. The teams that fundraise the most amount of money are able to sit in the owner’s suite at games, high five the players as they head on the ice, and get autographed memorabilia.
Lee has found a way to incentivise his following to donate, which has led to almost $200,000 being given to his charity in the last two years. At the event, hundreds of people come together to raise money for cancer and join the Islanders for a great cause, and hear Lee’s idol, Fenov Pierre-Dubois, give a speech about his fight with cancer.
At the KanJam tournament, an entire community can come together to raise awareness for something that people usually choose to purge from their minds. Lee fosters this environment, and sets people on a path to cure cancer by raising awareness. His event does more than just bring people together to play frisbee: it saves lives.
Lee’s teammate, defenseman Scott Mayfield, called the event “awesome,” saying “it is nice to be invited and have all the guys out here for this touching event.”
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The final total raised from Lee’s 2018 Kancer Jams was $110,000 this year, up from $90,000 the previous year.
“It is really so awesome,” Lee stated. “The Islanders community, the guys in the room and the organization being able to have the support that we’ve had. To be able to put on an event like this is special” (Quote obtained from IslandersInsight).
This event has set Lee on a path to success on the ice. In his fourth full NHL season, Lee has set a career high in goals, assists, points, power-play goals, power-play points, and shots. He also has improved his play in the faceoff circle, winning a whopping 71.43% of his draws.
Every time an opposing player takes a penalty, Lee skates onto the ice. When the puck is dropped, Lee parks himself right in front of the goalie, which has become a defining part of his game. His 14 power-play goals this season put him at fifth in the NHL in this category.
Anders Lee is emerging as one of the NHL’s stars on and off the ice. Whether he is raising money for charity, or tipping in shots from the point, Lee has made his mark on the Islanders, New York area, and the greater world.
However, Lee will be the first to tell you he is not tough.
“Now they understand what I’ve been saying all along: with all due respect to my Islanders teammates, the pound-for-pound toughest guy I know is none other than my friend Fenov Pierre-Louis.”