From Canada, Lee finds a home in Thunder goal Indoor game suits his playing style

January 29, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

First there was Jeff Gombar. Then Steve Dietrich. Now in goal for the Thunder is Dave Lee.

Lee is the third Canadian goalie in as many years to play for the Thunder. And the way he talks, there may be no need for coach John Stewart to search for a fourth next year.

"I'm having the time of my life," Lee said. At 22, he is a 13-year veteran of box lacrosse. In Canada, even summer lacrosse is played indoors.

Because of that experience, some Major Indoor Lacrosse League teams, including the Thunder, favor Canadian goalies. Philadelphia Wings goalie Dallas Eliuk, also from British Columbia, touted Lee on the MILL.

"He said it would be a great experience," Lee said. "Back home, the season is longer, there's little recognition and we're lucky if crowds are a couple thousand.

"We play in ice rinks, on cement. The game is rougher, five to 10 fights a game. Unlike here, the guys take their helmets off to fight. The athletes are better here, but they're not as knowledgeable about the indoor game."

Lee was working as a construction foreman and waiting for a spot to open up in the Vancouver fire department when Eliuk, who rotated with him in the goal for the Burnaby Lakers last summer, spoke glowingly of the MILL.

Lee first contacted the Boston Blazers, who promised him nothing. Then he called Stewart. Dietrich had notified the Thunder he wasn't returning.

"I can understand that," Stewart said. "A player from Canada leaves his home, his job, family and maybe his girlfriend for four months to come here for very little money. A rookie clears less than $100 a game."

Lee paid his way to Baltimore for a tryout and, once Stewart named him the team's No. 1 goalie, was reimbursed for his travel expenses.

Lee has had a demanding three games. In the 18-17 opening victory over Boston in which the score was tied 10 times, Lee suffered a gash on his chin in a fracas around the net. In the two games since, losses to Philadelphia and the Buffalo Bandits, he has surrendered 40 goals.

"The fact is he has done well,"Stewart said. "He has made some spectacular saves. We haven't given him defensive support, so he has had to bear most of the burden."

The Thunder's John Tucker, an MILL veteran who played last year with Eliuk in Philadelphia, calls Lee "solid."

"He has all the physical tools, but sometimes loses his focus," Tucker said. "If he keeps that, he'll be the best in the league. Dallas is more mature, but no more talented."

Now Lee is bracing for a second encounter with Philadelphia's Paul and Gary Gait tomorrow night at the Baltimore Arena, after tonight's road game against the New York Saints. Never mind that he idolized them and "grew up watching them." Never mind that the former Syracuse stars are the MILL's main attractions. Never mind that Paul Gait pumped in seven goals against the Thunder two weeks ago.

Lee can only think about all those people packed in the Arena tomorrow night, screaming.

"I'll be having the time of my life," Lee said.

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