Who knew when Julia Lee, from North Vancouver, British Columbia, was deciding where she would apply to university, it would be across the country in small-town Sackville, New Brunswick? No matter where she attended school, Lee, a third-year commerce major and
star-studded defenceman for the Mount Allison Varsity Women’s Hockey team, has always wanted to play hockey at the highest level possible.
When she started skating at four years old and playing hockey for the first time a year later, “I never really looked back,” Lee remarks. Lee’s earliest memories come from spending endless hours with her three brothers at the rink. Her oldest brother, Justin, played for Simon Fraser
University, and her youngest, Joshua, was recently drafted 45th overall and signed by the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Jayden, the second oldest brother, is currently the Division 1 Quinnipiac Bobcats captain in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Hockey has helped each of the Lees succeed on and off the ice, and this beautiful sport has also brought their family together. During Jayden’s run to the NCAA D1 Championship last season, Lee and her family flew to Tampa Bay to watch her brother win. Lee notes that such a memorable experience must have been beyond rewarding for her parents, who spent much of their time at the rink. Parent sacrifices are among the most remarkable of them all.
As the only female hockey player in her family, Lee is thrilled to see North America’s newly founded Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL). Finally, a space for young girls to realize their dreams of playing professional hockey as a career option. Filled with optimism for the next generation of young female hockey players, as Lee once was, she acknowledges, “there could be an after. There is something like the NHL for women to strive for now.”
Leaving home has not always been easy for Lee. However, when asked what she is most proud of at Mt. A, Lee says it is the ability to create an identity for herself. In North Vancouver, she is one of the four J’s, referring to her three other brothers, and is sometimes known as Justin and Jayden’s little sister. Stepping out of her brothers’ shadows has been a new and positive experience, although her siblings have been nothing short of the most prominent role models in her life. Lee would not be the person she is today without them, nor would they be who they are without her, and leaving British Columbia has allowed her to better understand who she is as a player and a person.
Three years away from her west-coast family, Lee, a proud part-time East-Coaster, has found a second family in her home away from home. Her 22 teammates, who are also her built-in best friends, despite not being a top-tier team in the Atlantic University Sports (AUS) league, are among the most supportive and caring groups anybody could find. Should the season end abruptly tomorrow, Lee says she would miss the moments inside the dressing room the most. It is always something to do with the people you play with, not the playing itself, that makes sports so wonderful.
In her hockey house, Lee lives with five other teammates, including Hanna Pagdato, who played for the Philippines National Hockey Team. The house comes from entirely different backgrounds, and Lee’s own culture has influenced another aspect of her playing career.
Growing up having always worn number eight on the ice, Lee says it is a prevalent number in Chinese culture, meaning good luck, and she has always been surrounded by it. Upon arriving at Mt. A, Cassie Clark, a year older than Lee, was already sporting the number eight. Joking that Clark stole her number, Lee went with the unusual #18 for a defenceman. This number still included the important number eight, and she intends to keep her number when Clark graduates in the spring. Lee has shaped a new identity at Mt. A, and it has been wonderful to understand her story.
The Mounties are coming off back-to-back one goal losses to the top two teams in their league. A crucial part of their blue line for the past three years, Lee will help lead the way in her final two seasons for Mt. A as they strive to become an AUS powerhouse.