Christopher William Lee was born October 3rd, 1980, in Parry Sound to Michael and Susan (Blanchard) Lee. He has one sister, Caitlin Lee.
Raised in MacTier, Chris began skating at an early age influenced by his grandfather Bing Blanchard. Bing convinced Chris’s parents to put him on the ice for the first time at 18 months. By the age of 3, Chris was playing his first games of organized hockey.
After of couple of seasons in MacTier, Chris joined the Humphrey Hawks Tyke team. Two games later, he was moved up to play on the Novice team. The following season, he went to Parry Sound to try-out for the Novice Rep team, where his minor hockey journey began.
During the span of 11 minor hockey seasons in Parry Sound, Chris’ teams enjoyed an abundance of success. Following two consecutive All-Ontario finals defeats in Atom to a strong team from Kincardine, they finally broke through in Bantam to win their first All-Ontario Championship. From there they went on to claim two more All-Ontario championships, one in Midget and one in Juvenile. Taking part in the All-Ontario Finals for half of their minor hockey career speaks volumes about the amount of talent in the area and the impressive coaching that mentored and led the team along the way.
Chris began playing Junior “A” during the ‘98-99 season at home with the Parry Sound Shamrocks. The Shamrocks had an amazing run their first season but unfortunately bowed out to Rayside Balfour in the NOJHA Finals. The next season was a different story. The Shamrocks moved leagues, began playing in the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League (OPJHL) and had a huge roster turnover from the previous season. After an early coaching change, the team had the honor of playing the last half of the season under Barry “Hawk” Tabobondung. Barry had a huge influence on advancing Chris’ career as they spoke a lot about choosing the College hockey route in the United States which is ultimately the path Chris decided to take.
Chris opted to take a partial scholarship from SUNY Potsdam, which is a small National Collegiate Athletic Association ( Division III school in upstate New York. Here he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and met his future wife of twelve years, Eileen. They have two children, Carter and Jackson. Education was Chris’ primary focus at the time because it was highly unlikely that a Division III athlete would get an opportunity to play professionally after college. He enjoyed personal success during his college hockey career receiving All-Conference nominations three times along with Conference Player of the Year and All-American honors during his senior year. The following season, he received interest from minor league teams to continue his hockey career.
With the help of a college teammate, Joel Jennings, whose father was the equipment manager for the Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), Chris secured a contract, and his professional career began. His first pro season was a success. The team made it to the Kelly Cup Finals, losing to the Trenton Devils in six games. At the end of this season Chris made the transition from forward to defence. Chris began his next season with the Everblades playing defence full time and was voted to play in the ECHL All-Star game. He earned a try-out with the Albany River Rats of the AHL the next season and showed well enough in camp to start the season with the team and play in the first three games. From there he went back to Florida before earning a call-up with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the and then playing the last half of the year with the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights. He would play three more seasons in the AHL with Iowa (Dallas Stars), Bridgeport (NY Islanders) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pittsburgh Penguins) attending National Hockey League (NHL) training camps in New York and Pittsburgh. During the ‘09-10 season with the Penguins farm team he earned his first and only NHL call-up for a game against the Ottawa Senators. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to play in the game but enjoyed the day in the spotlight and the filet mignon on the team plane.
The following summer, after weighing some NHL/AHL offers Chris decided to continue his journey overseas in Germany with Cologne of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) . Following an injury plagued first season he signed with Mannheim and enjoyed a breakout year leading the league in scoring for defence, as well as being voted Top Defenceman of the DEL. From there he made the jump to the Swedish Elite League signing a contract with Farjestad and also earned a spot on Team Canada to play in the Deutschland Cup. Having another successful season, leading the league in defenceman scoring and earning Top Defenceman honors, he caught the eye of a few Russian teams in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Although Chris was still under contract in Farjestad a contract buyout was negotiated, and he was off to Russia.
Soon after signing his first contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Chris learned that his new head coach was going to be “Iron” Mike Keenan. He was thrilled to play for him, not only because he was a legendary coach but because he was Canadian and there wouldn’t be a language barrier when it came to hockey. The first season was a huge success. Chris made the All-Star Game, and the team won the Gagarin Cup, beating Prague in seven games, for his first professional championship. They followed that up with another Gagarin Cup during the ’15-16 season beating a powerhouse Red Army team in seven games. The ‘16-17 season, at age 36, turned out to be the greatest season of his career. After a strong start to the season, Chris was called upon to represent Canada again at the Deutschland Cup in Germany. He returned to Russia full of confidence and concluded the year by setting all-time KHL defenceman scoring records for assists in a season (51) and points in a season (65) and led the KHL in scoring by an import player. That trend continued in the playoffs, setting KHL records in playoff assists (20), defenceman playoff assists and points by a defenceman in the playoffs. These records still stand today. Although they lost in the Finals that season to SKA St. Petersburg his season didn’t end. Chris earned the chance to represent Canada at the World Championships. He also had the distinct honor of being the only non-NHL player on a roster full of some of today’s biggest stars. They finished that tournament winning a silver medal after a heart-breaking shootout loss to Sweden in the Finals.
The World Championship appearance churned a bit of interest from NHL teams for the following season and Chris decided to accept an invitation to training camp with the LA Kings. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out, so he had some decisions to make. There was interest shown by Boston, Calgary and Montreal, but nothing came to fruition. Chris decided to return to the KHL for the last half of the season. On his way to Russia, he joined Team Canada, in Finland, to play in the Karjala Cup as a pre-Olympic tryout event. This was the beginning of an unbelievable final season of his career. After playing in another Olympic tryout event in December he was told that the Olympic roster would be finalized in early January. Then the call came from Sean Burke and Hockey Canada, “Chris, you have been chosen to represent Canada in PyeongChang at the Winter Olympics, but you can’t tell anyone because we are going to announce the team live on TSN in a couple weeks.” Chris immediately told his wife and swore her to secrecy, but misled his parents saying that he hadn’t heard anything. Later, he FaceTimed his mom from Russia so that they could watch the Team Announcement on TSN together. “It was one of the happiest moments of my life. The Olympic journey was incredible and something I can hardly express in words.” After a crushing defeat to Germany in the semi-finals Team Canada regrouped to beat a tough Czech team to capture the Bronze. “We accomplished our goal of returning home with a medal.” Chris returned to Russia immediately following the Olympics to complete the season with Metallurg Magnitogorsk and, as he had been planning for a year, to complete his career.
Now, residing in Nashville, TN with his wife and two sons they are enjoying spending time together as a family. “The hockey journey proved to be a major sacrifice in all aspects of life. With our rental properties and two young kids I’m busier now than when I was playing, and to be honest, that is absolutely perfect.”