It’s all God’s doing, says NHL star Cheechoo
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Jonathan Cheechoo is pictured in his Team Canada uniform. Photo courtesy of Indian Life Newspaper.
As the NHL playoffs gain momentum, BCCN spotlights a prominent Canadian aboriginal player. Jonathan Cheechoo, right winger for the San Jose Sharks, has led his team in scoring goals. In the team’s first game against the Nashville Predators April 11, Cheechoo suffered a severe knee injury; however, he was back in action for subsequent games.

According to The National Post, he was taking the injury in his stride. Cheechoo stated: “On certain days it feels better and certain days it feels worse. For the most part, it’s fine. I don’t really think about it out there, and that’s the way I’m going to play. That’s the way I have to play. You hurt it more if you don’t.” Cheechoo has been public about his Christian commitment; in the following testimony, he recounts the role faith has played in his career.

EVER SINCE I can remember, hockey has been part of my life. I got my first pair of skates when I was just one year old. Dad would flood the backyard, and during my younger years, I would play for hours.

Images from Hockey Night in Canada filled my Saturday nights season after season, at home with my family or over at my grandfather’s. We all love the game.

My home of Moose Factory, Ontario, is an isolated northern location on James Bay. It isn’t known for producing professional hockey players. So the thrill of playing for the San Jose Sharks has been all the more exciting for me. I know it’s of the Lord, because hockey is something he helped me grow into.

High school

I decided when I was 14, in grade 8, that during my high school years I wanted to leave Moose Factory to play competitively. I went to Timmins for Triple A Bantam, then Capuskasing for Triple A Midget. Then I played Jr. B for the Kitchener Dutchmen. In 1997, I was picked 5th overall in the Ontario Hockey League draft by the Belleville Bulls.

On right wing with Belleville, I had an excellent season, with 76 points. I amassed 31 goals and 45 assists. It was a great year for me and proved to be the final stepping stone to launch me into my dream of being drafted into professional hockey.

Support

I’ve had a lot of support along the way. When the time came for the draft on June 27, 1998, more than 100 fans from Moose Factory went all the way to Buffalo, New York, to encourage me. They had to be really excited for me, as it took more than a day of travel.

Later, they had a Jonathan Cheechoo Day for me back home. I signed pictures and answered a bunch of questions. There were about 250 kids and 300 adults at the community centre. It’s nice to know all these people are interested in what I’m doing.

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Cheechoo in action with the San Jose Sharks
Family

My family has really been my biggest support. They’ve been behind me 100 percent. It’s been that way my whole life.

From the time I was very little, my parents have been showing me God’s love, and teaching me. They taught me that according to God’s word, the Bible, I was a sinner. I needed God’s forgiveness.

It was following a church service, when we had a guest speaker, that I went forward when the invitation was given – and someone led me in a prayer to accept Jesus as my personal Saviour. From that time on, I have tried to put the Lord first in my life.

Playing as a Christian in a professional sports league like the NHL has put challenges on my walk with the Lord. But God has helped me – and I can be a testimony to people he puts me in contact with. There’s a lot of temptation, but I’m not worried. Now, of course, there will be new challenges.

Respected

Everyone knows where I stand, and that’s respected. I haven’t had much of a problem with racism. I get it occasionally, but it’s not too bad. Sometimes in the heat of battle, words slip. But hockey is such an intense game.

Now that I’ve made it to the NHL and played in the Stanley Cup finals and on the All Stars team, I’m excited about what lies ahead. There aren’t a lot of natives who have made it this far. I’m a goal scorer, and those native players who have made it haven’t been goal scorers.

There haven’t really been any since the days when Reggie Leach played for the Philadelphia Flyers. This is my opportunity to show that we’re just as good as anyone else.

I feel God has really had his blessing over me. If you live for him, he’ll bless you. It’s all his doing. I just work hard – and I know he’ll help me out.

Courtesy of Indian Life

May 2007