Growing up in Edina, Anders Lee always knew the name Nick Leddy.
“He was our focal point every time we met to play them,” Lee said of Leddy, who played for crosstown rival Eden Prairie. “He was the guy to keep an eye on.”
Likewise, Leddy knew his team was in for a challenge when he squared off against Lee and the Hornets. From Mites up through high school, the pair played dozens of games on opposite sides of the ice. They traded goals, wins and losses.
“When you play against rivals, it’s always a fun game to play in,” Leddy said. “It’s always like a playoff game. You definitely love to play those games, but hated to play against [Edina]. But then getting to know the guys like Anders in the offseason, and playing with him, it makes the relationship more special.”
Lee and Leddy teamed up for the Upper Midwest High School Elite League’s Team Southwest before getting selected in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft – Leddy (1st round, 16th overall), Lee (6th round, 182nd overall). Now they are back on the same bench with the New York Islanders.
“I’ve known Nick for a really long time,” Lee said. “It’s been pretty incredible that we’ve grown up together and found our way on the same team in the NHL.”
Lee is the first to admit that Leddy came out on top with most of the accolades in their high school hockey days. Both finalists for the 2009 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award, Leddy earned the honor, amassing 45 points (12 goals and 33 assists) his senior year as he lifted the Eagles to the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament Class AA title.
Lee finished as one of the top scorers in the state that season with 25 goals and 59 assists in 31 games. The Hornets ranked second heading into state but lost to runners-up Moorhead in the first round. While Lee said those distinctions, and a 2013 Stanley Cup, act as a trump card for any light-hearted smack talk Lee might have, Leddy adds one reminder:
“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure he beat us every single time we played them, so he’s got that against me,” Leddy said with a laugh.
Lee said the community-based emphasis in Minnesota, playing for your association from 8U and up, is what makes those crosstown rivalries, friendships and bonds so unique to the State of Hockey.
“Our boundaries line up, and in crosstown rivals those are kids you’ve seen since the beginning of your hockey career,” Lee said. “With Eden Prairie and Edina, it’s two really good programs and two really good communities that really take pride in their athletics. Every time our two communities played each other, whether it was a game at EP or at Braemar, it was always a good game.”
Now on the big stage with the Islanders, Lee adds keeping that Minnesota flavor – which includes Warroad native Brock Nelson – makes it that much more fun.
“The last few years we’ve had plenty of Minnesota guys come through; some you’ve played with or some you’ve played against growing up, so it’s nice to see those familiar faces,” Lee said. “You have that instant connection with a Minnesota guy because you know you both grew up learning and loving hockey from a young age. We take pride in being from our Minnesota community, and every town or city has their team and the local support and outdoor rinks.
“You have kids who might not even be playing organized hockey all the way through, but they have that love for the game. Being from Minnesota, hockey is a part of you. It’s our identity. We take pride in it, and I’m glad Nick and myself were able to be successful products of it.”
NOTE: You can watch Leddy and Lee play on opposite teams once again on Mondays and Wednesdays at Braemar Ice Arena in Da Beauty League.