RED DEER – This month’s Alumni Spotlight focuses on Lee Zalasky, formerly of the Sherwood Park Kings.
Lee Zalasky’s parents took him out skating as a child and he has not left the ice since. As a young boy growing up in Lloydminster, Lee met a neighbourhood friend who shared his passion for skating and hockey. From there, the passion grew into a full-on hobby. Hockey wasn’t the only sport that kept him busy, as he played fastball, golf, tennis, and volleyball during the summer. Besides the physical attributes that helped his game, Lee claims that the additional sports provided a mental reset and allowed him to return to hockey with rejuvenated energy in the fall.
Lloydminster Minor Hockey was the starting point for Lee until Bantam AA, where he then moved on to join the Sherwood Park Kings Midget AAA as an import player. In 2001-2002, he began his WHL career with the Moose Jaw Warriors, and would continue through his four seasons with the Calgary Hitmen and Prince George Cougars. After his run in the WHL, Lee returned to Northern Alberta joining the University of Alberta Golden Bears, where he would play five seasons, and winning two National Championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Finally, Lee finished off his playing career in Senior AAA with the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs.
“(I enjoyed) the competitive nature of the game and the dressing room banter. Competing on the ice and being around athletes that carry the same passion drives me,” said Lee. “I really enjoy becoming a tight knit team and pushing each other to be their best on a daily basis. Being around teammates off the ice and sharing laughs has created multiple positive memories and friendships.”
As things got more competitive through minor hockey, Lee suffered a couple of setbacks, and quickly realized that there are plenty of talented players across the province. Those setbacks allowed Lee to build resilience later in his career, as there was less of a shock value when things didn’t go his way. He was better prepared to hear things that he needed to hear and was better prepared to handle the different forms of adversity that come with playing elite level hockey. Additionally, playing Lloydminster meant there was a lot of travel in rural areas and cold weather, which he believes builds character and prepared him for those long, gruelling bus trips in the WHL.
Lee’s favourite memory from playing hockey in Alberta is when his team won the Bantam AA Provincial Championships. Even though he was a first year, he felt his coach believed in him and put him into critical situations late in the season.
Lee has since moved on to a coaching career in the elite levels of minor hockey and is currently head coach of the AEHL’s U18 AAA Sherwood Park Ennis Kings.
“I have got to meet some incredible people and through it build some lifelong relationships whether it be with players I have coached, former teammates or other people you meet within the game,” said Lee. “My career(s) have been directly linked to the game of hockey, I met my wife through hockey, and I have been able to see parts of the world that you typically don’t get to go and for all of that, I am very grateful.”