As a wrap-up to the 2020-21 season, Hockey Alberta is featuring four outstanding coaches as recipients of the Coach of the Month recognition - sponsored by Players Bench Team Apparel. These coaches were nominated by parents, players, and fellow coaches due to their exceptional leadership, initiative, and innovation during the difficult season.
Today Hockey Alberta is pleased to recognize Lee Zalasky of St. Albert.
ST. ALBERT - Lee Zalasky was the head coach of the Canadian Athletic Club U15 AAA team (AEHL) in Edmonton during the 2020-21 season. After an extensive playing career which saw him make stops in Prince George (WHL) and the University of Alberta (U Sports), Lee still felt the itch to be involved in the game. It was through his first job as a teacher where he met Hockey Alberta Coach Mentor Barry Medori who connected him with the Spruce Grove AAA program where he began coaching.
Throughout the difficult 2020-21 season, Lee went the extra mile to allow for his players to build on their development while being away from the ice. Facilitating team meetings via Zoom, bringing on guest speakers and scouts, setting up virtual workouts, yoga classes, stickhandling, and sports psychology sessions were just some of the ways that he was able to keep his team engaged. Before the pause of the season, Lee placed a huge emphasis on the importance of supporting the community and encouraged his players to rake leaves for their neighbours as a team.
"I know our coach has a history of helping the community and you can tell he wants to build that culture in our team everyday, which he has done a great job of doing so," said the player who submitted the nomination. "Coach Lee is definitely the best coach that I have had, and he definitely deserves this recognition after all he’s done for us!"
In a typical year, Lee volunteers to coach sports at his school which include basketball, badminton, and track and field. It is the dressing room comradery and lifelong relationships developed along that way that are his favourite part of coaching. His personal philosophy as a coach and teacher is to construct a learning environment where the foundation is based on the values of trust, caring, respect, hard work, and effective communication. For him, 2020 was a reminder to slow things down and just enjoy the process.
"It is important to provide players with the necessary supports to meet their individual needs to further promote personal growth both on and off the ice." said Lee. "As players move on beyond your team, it’s exciting to watch them grow both as citizens within the community and the hockey world."