Feature by Brian Werger, USHL.com
USHL alumni are continuing to make waves in the NHL, but one former USHL player was absent from a NHL roster this season. There wasn’t a grand retirement ceremony or a tear-filled press conference of a player walking away from the game he spent his whole life playing, but there was Lee Sweatt, at the ripe old age of 26, who hung up his skates to pursue his dreams away from the ice.
Sweatt achieved the dream of every hockey player when he set foot on NHL ice during the 2010-11 season. He even scored a goal in his first ever NHL contest, which would prove to the game-winning goal for the Vancouver Canucks in a 2-1 victory against Nashville.
“It was an amazing feeling just stepping on the ice for warm-ups and my first shift is something I will always remember,” said Sweatt. “I ended up scoring that goal and it was really wild and something I will never forget. My debut in the NHL was pretty incredible and definitely a lifelong dream I felt like I achieved and fulfilled.”
The amazing feeling turned into pain only a few moments later for the defenseman who had a NHL debut that simulated the ups and downs of a roller coaster ride. One shift after scoring his first NHL goal, the same foot that first touched NHL ice took the brunt of a slap shot by Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber. The multi-million dollar defenseman is known for having one of the hardest shots in the NHL, a claim that Sweatt unfortunately now can attest to.
“That’s for sure,” Sweatt painfully recalls.
He would go on to play two more games for the Canucks before two more shots to the same foot in practice resulted in a broken foot that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Sweatt summed up his NHL experience with one simple sentence: “Right around the end of January, I got called up, played three games, got injured, and that was it.”
But the Lee Sweatt story goes well beyond one sentence.
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