New York Islanders captain Anders Lee had a strong collegiate hockey career at the University of Notre Dame under head coach James Jackson.
In three seasons in South Bend, Indiana, a young Anders Lee scored 61 goals with 55 assists for 116 points in 125 games. He was named captain of the Fighting Irish in his final season and on top of all that, he graduated the pristine university with a degree in management consulting.
Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson spoke to our Joshua Linsenberg about the recruitment of Anders Lee, his collegiate career, and his thoughts on Anders Lee’s success on and off the ice since breaking into the NHL with the New York Islanders.
But first, a little on Jeff Jackson and his coaching history with Notre Dame:
The 2022-23 season marks Jeff Jackson’s 18th season behind the Irish bench. A two-time NCAA Coach of the Year, Jackson has helped Notre Dame to eight conference championships and seven Frozen Four appearances. His 558 career wins is the most among active NCAA head coaches hockey.
Recruiting Anders Lee
In his junior year of high school in Edina, Minnesota, Anders Lee emerged as a talented multi-sport athlete.
Lee won the starting quarterback job in the fall, helping the Edina Hornets to their best finish in 10 years. Then during the winter, Lee hopped on the ice, finishing third in scoring with 52 points in the winter season, as his hockey team went 26-1.
In his senior year of high school, his second year as the starting quarterback, Lee was named the 2008 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year, the 2008 Metro Player of the Year, the National Football Foundation Player of the Year, and was a finalist for Minnesota’s ‘Mr. Football’ Award.
Lee holds conference records for touchdowns (32) in a season, total yards (3,332), total yards in a game (689 vs. Hopkins) and average points per game (19.2), and last but not least set the Minnesota State mark for total offense per game (319 yds. per game).
On the ice, Lee finished as one of the top scorers in the league with 25 goals and 59 assists in 31 games.
“My associate coach, who’s my recruiting coordinator, had brought his name to me, told me he was, you know, a great athlete obviously, just wasn’t a hockey player. He played football,” Coach Jackson said. “You know, we followed him pretty closely in Edina.”
“We had a lot of success recruiting players out of that high school in Minnesota,”
But again, football was something that Lee wanted to pursue, especially during his season year.
“He actually had a tough decision to make, as far as whether he was going to play hockey or football, because he was also an exceptionally good quarterback. So, you know, that was probably the biggest decision more so than what school he was going to go to,” Jackson said.
So much so that when the New York Islanders had interest in drafting the Edina native in 2008, he told them that he was going back for his senior year.
But Lee loved hockey, and that’s the sport he wanted to pursue when choosing his college. He always had a love for Notre Dame and the stars aligned, and the Islanders just waited a season later to draft him, as he was taken in the sixth round (152nd overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft.
Anders Lee’s College Career
When Anders Lee did decide to attend Notre Dame, Coach Jackson saw more than just a good hockey player.
“I recognized right away that this kid was something special as far as his character and potential for leadership,” Jackson said. “He was just very mature for his age, and he exuded character as far as I was concerned, and that’s what we got when he came to Notre Dame.”
“Real solid human being, and knew what he wanted, and he was gonna go after it,”
Lee may not have been the most talented player on the roster, but he was always a motivated individual, doing what he had to do to make sure he was at his best game in and game out.
“He really made himself because of his effort level, his intensity, his focus…he did everything in his power to make himself a better skater because he had a lot of the other attributes to play in the National Hockey League,” Jackson said.
In his freshmen season, Lee was named to the 2010-11 All-CCHA Rookie Team after a 24-goal, 20 assist season (44 points) in 44 games.
Lee was tied for the team lead with six power-play goals, had one short-handed goal, and tied a Notre Dame single-season mark with seven game-winning goals.
The Sophomore season saw Lee score 17 goals with 17 assists in 44 games, followed by a junior season, his final season at Notre Dame, with a 20-goal, 18-assist campaign in 38 games played.
Islanders fans know Lee to be a left winger, but in his final year with the Irish, Lee actually wanted to play center according to Coach Jackson.
“His junior year, he asked me if he could play center. I lived up to that, and he did a good job,” Jackson said. “I think at that point his skating had improved enough for him to be always a 200-foot player, but playing center, you got to be able to move, to get back into your own end and be responsible.”
“So he did a great job there, and he was always a factor on the score sheet.”
Anders Lee’s Leadership
Lee is gearing up for his fifth season as New York Islanders captain and as mentioned before, being a leader came naturally before he even stepped on an NHL rink.
“Anders was a mature young man, he was well-liked by his teammates. I’m sure you know, he probably had a great time with his teammates and in the social environment, and yet he was well respected,” Jackson said. “And that’s just like with a coach, it’s a really fine line to draw to where you can still be one of the boys, and yet, you know when to speak.
“He’s got to make sure that, you know, things don’t get out of control, either socially or in the locker room or whatever.”
Lee was named captain of the Fighting Irish for the 2012-13 season, his junior year and final year at Notre Dame.
While Jackson is proud of Lee’s success as Islanders captain, he says that he is most proud that Lee has never lost touch with the community.
Lee was nominated for the King Clancy Trophy this past season, an NHL award given to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.
“We want guys obviously, to have a chance to become great players and you know, do things that are going to be positive for their lives after hockey and their families,” Jackson said. “But for me, Notre Dame is about community. It is about giving back.”
“You know, we want our guys to develop and play in the National Hockey League, but it’s also nice to know that maybe they’re gonna contribute to society later on in life.”
Editor-in-Chief Stefen Rosner contributed to this article