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Jen Lee Ready to Take the Reins in Net

By Kyle Huson, 03/02/22, 1:30PM EST


After backing up Steve Cash in 2014 and 2018, Lee to be starter in 2022

BEIJING - In 2006, a young sled hockey goaltender named Steve Cash represented the United States for the first time at the Paralympic Winter Games. Flash forward to 2014, and the U.S. had their tandem of the man affectionately known as “Cash Money” and a new goaltender — Jen Lee.

Since then, it was always Cash and Lee. Cash is undisputedly the best goaltender to ever play the game of sled hockey. When he was in net, you knew the chances of winning favored the side of the red, white and blue.

But when he wasn’t in net, you still knew the chances of winning favored the U.S. Jen Lee was a starter waiting to bloom behind the best to ever do it.

Cash won his final Para Sled Hockey World Championship in June and retired from the game in October. Now, Lee’s time as a starter has finally come and he is ready to take full advantage of the opportunity.

“I feel very, very blessed and very honored to play with this team for the past eight or ten seasons — I’ve lost count,” said Lee. “For me, having the backup role and becoming the starter there’s definitely a different preparation. I learned a lot from Steve on how he had to prepare himself physically and mentally.”

Lee feels like his game has grown tremendously since he first joined the team for the 2014 Paralympics. He received advice from his former head coach, Jeff Sauer, that he said he didn’t understand when he was younger but now that he’s a self-described “35-years-young,” he understands better.

2022 U.S. Paralympic Team

“He told me that goaltending is a position that, actually, as you grow older you become better at. You get a little bit better understanding of the game, about the playing style, and how you and your teammates can build off the energy of the game.”

Head coach David Hoff believed that even before Cash retired, Lee had been improving his game and that there was a seamless transition to him becoming the starter.

“I think the first thing is he got a chance to learn from the best, you know, in terms of just he and Steve being such good friends and Steve being really a mentor and someone for him to just watch and emulate.

“The biggest thing for Jen is he just needs to be himself. There’s something about him that makes Jen really, really unique. He’s a competitor. He’s got to play to his strengths, and if he does that and just stays within himself and doesn’t try to do too much, he’s going to be just fine throughout the tournament.”

The quote about Jen being unique extends beyond the playing surface. When you see him around the rink, he is always smiling and always joking around, Born in Taiwan, he speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese and has served as the team translator when necessary.

Take Tuesday’s practice, for example. The team was patiently waiting to get on the ice before the 3 p.m. start time. There were five minutes to go, so the team asked their goalie to try to negotiate with the rink staff to get on early. Mission accomplished, as Lee used his charm and wit to get the team on two and a half minutes early.

Schedule & Results

But after the team had their laughs and got onto the ice, it was serious business as Lee did whatever he could to keep the puck out of the net in practice. It’s something he learned from Cash and something he takes pride in being a veteran on the team.

“One of the things that we never let go or never stop is the work ethic. We continue to try to get on the ice, trying to practice wherever we can off the ice conditioning and everything else. So that's something that we carry that with the younger guys is work ethic, work ethic, work ethic.”

Paralympic Roster

He has learned a lot from Cash and his teammates, but it is, in fact, a Disney movie that has had a huge impact on his hockey career. He has a photo of Julie “The Cat” Gaffney painted onto his goalie mask. He said that although it is a comical movie, he feels like there is a lot he can take from The Mighty Ducks series that can be applied to the game of hockey.

“Every time I watch The Mighty Ducks, I’m not kidding, I found something different and profound in it. It is always teaching what teamwork is, being selfless, about growing maturely with the game and understanding that it takes a whole village for everything.”

2022 Paralympic Notebook

The U.S. will need everyone living in the physical village to win their fourth-straight Paralympic gold medal. Not only will Lee play a big role in that, but he also feels a sense of responsibility to continue to help mentor Griffin LaMarre, who is in his first Paralympics.

“Steve definitely set a lot of standards, to lead by example. Griffin is no stranger to this. He’s been on the development team, he’s been working his butt off to make this team. There are a lot of things he brings to the table where I learned from stuff from him, and hopefully he’ll pick up one or two things from me.”

One thing is for sure — the net will be in good hands when the U.S. drops the puck at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

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