It feels like only yesterday that we witnessed captain Justin Lemcke raise the J. Ross Robertson Cup in front of close to 9,000 fans at FirstOntario Centre. A fan-favourite, Lemcke served as the first-ever captain of the Bulldogs for 3 seasons and would eventually lead the team to the 2018 OHL Championship. In the Championship season, Lemcke was awarded the Mickey Renaud Captain’s Trophy, as the OHL team captain that best exemplified leadership on and off the ice, with a passion and dedication to the game of hockey.
Life after the Bulldogs has been quite the ride for the former captain, who has spent the past year with 4 teams across 2 sports.
From the Bulldogs, Lemcke moved on to the ECHL, signing with the Wichita Thunder before being traded to the Cincinnati Cyclones. He slotted in as the 7th defenseman with the Ohio based team with limited ice time, so in January, Lemcke made the decision to leave his pro hockey dreams behind him and seek out a new path.
That new path would be pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Guelph. The five seasons Lemcke played in the OHL gave him the ability to attend the university with tuition, books and fees paid for, thanks to the league’s scholarship program.
Attending Guelph would also mean a spot on the highly-touted Gryphons hockey team, where Lemcke would get prime minutes on a top defensive pairing.
“Guelph was one of the schools that had reached out to me in my overage year,” said Lemcke, “ and the opportunity to come in right away in January and play was a big part of the decision.”
The other primary factor in his decision was that Guelph would allow him to get started on his Bachelor of Arts degree. It gave Lemcke the opportunity to mix his on-ice success with his academic studies.
“It’s been a lot of fun, I passed all my courses the first semester and I‘m looking forward to heading back in September”
Lemcke plans to transition his Bachelor of Arts into a business degree in the near future. He attributes his interest in business to his parents, who own the Weed Man lawn care company. “It’s a family company, both my parents work in the company and now I can see that as a possibility for myself.”
The shift from the life of a full-time athlete to a full-time student has been an interesting experience for Justin. “It’s been a bit of an adjustment, not being in school for a couple years,” he said. I knew it was going to be kind of tough going into school and taking that as the main challenge and putting hockey on the back burner, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
The transition away from being a full-time hockey player has allowed him to revisit his second love – lacrosse. He’s wasted no time getting back into the sport and was selected in the 4th round of the National Lacrosse League draft just 4 months after the Bulldogs made their Memorial Cup run.
Lemcke was also selected in the first round of the Major Series Lacrosse League draft by the Peterborough Century 21 Lakers. He’ll spend this summer playing in Peterborough and has aspirations of making the jump to the NLL in 2020, after he completes his second season of hockey in Guelph.
When asked about his plans for the future, Justin told us he has a few ideas but nothing concrete yet. He says he wants to “work towards [his] degree and leave as many doors open as possible.”
If the plan is to open doors, he’s certainly doing a great job so far.