Just three months into her hockey career at Yale, forward Grace Lee ’23 is beginning her college athletic career as the unlikeliest of heroes — overcoming a series of surgeries as a young child, Lee went on to compete in the Olympics before arriving in New Haven to play for the Bulldogs.
Hailing from Boulder, Colorado, Lee was born with a congenital foot disorder: clubfoot. Starting when she was just six months old, Lee had to get several surgeries to correct her feet. However, those surgeries resulted in limited ankle mobility and severely limited her range of motion. Afflicted by a pain which still affects her training today, Lee has overcome her struggles to become a star for the Bulldogs. She currently leads the team in goals with six tallies on the season.
“I think right from the start, Grace, as all the other [first years] have, jumped into being a part of the team and helped create a good team culture,” captain Laura Anderson ’20 said. “On the ice, she is very talented. She has good hands and is very fast. She’s a great addition to the team and she will be successful and help the team be successful over her next four years.”
At the age of seven, Lee began skating at her doctor’s recommendation because of her ankles’ limitations. From that moment, the rest became history. Lee eventually moved to Minnesota, where she played for Shattuck-St. Mary’s. There, Lee fit into a team which garnered national attention; the team won three state championships and two national championships during her time there. In her first season, Lee collected 57 points, showing she had what it takes to compete at that level.
“She’s a more natural skater than she is a walker,” her high school coach Gordon Stafford said.
Her efforts did not go unnoticed in the team. After shining in an exhibition match against the unified Korean Olympic team, head coach Sarah Murray gave Lee an opportunity she couldn’t pass up: the chance to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Lee delayed her graduation and Ivy League commitment to train in South Korea, eventually making the Olympic roster.
“It was incredible, and words cannot describe what it was like to be a part of the Winter Olympics,” Lee said. “It was an honor to represent Korea especially being the host country. It was also an extreme honor being able to be a part of the unified hockey team at such a young age.”
After returning from the Olympics, Lee completed her senior year at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. As if no time had passed, she fit right back into a roster that made the finals of the national championship.
With such an impressive resume, Lee committed to playing for Yale in her junior year. She ultimately chose Yale for its balance.
“I choose to play hockey at Yale because it provided both athletics and academics,” Lee said. “I was able to picture my future after college and knew Yale was the right place for me.”
Recounting her first three months, Lee said she’s found a home in New Haven. In addition to a thunderous start on the ice, she stated that she’s taking interesting classes and making great friends on campus. One of her favorite experiences so far was attending the Harvard-Yale game and cheering on fellow athletes as they bounced back to win in double overtime. But mostly, Lee has loved bonding with teammates, emphasizing that the squad was warm and welcoming to the first-years.
Her contributions to the team have not gone unnoticed. Following Yale’s game against Union — a decisive 5–0 win — Lee earned ECAC Rookie of the Week honors. On Dec. 2, she received Rookie of the Month honors. Despite these incredible achievements, Lee remains a team player excited for many more games with her fellow Bulldogs.
“My favorite experience for Yale hockey was our first game because it was the first time I got to wear the Yale jersey,” Lee said.
Lee will don the jersey again this Friday as the Bulldogs take on Harvard at 6 p.m. at Ingalls Rink.
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