Though he now makes a living scoring goals and checking opponents into the boards, Jonathan Cheechoo, right wing for the San Jose Sharks, isn’t too far removed from his humble beginnings in Moose Factory, Ontario. Raised on a Native American reservation, Cheechoo is a member of the Moose Cree First Nation. “We lived on an island,” he says, “and there are no roads to get there. You have to take either a train or a plane. I grew up playing hockey all the time because that’s all we could do.” Knowing he would need to get out of the boondocks to get noticed as a player, Cheechoo left home at 14 to live with another family in Ontario. “A lot of native people don’t like to leave the reservation, so I go back and speak there as much as I can, encouraging them to venture out and, hopefully, have the same kind of success.”
At just 26, Cheechoo already holds several team records, including the most points scored in a single season, with 93. But that kind of talent has made Cheechoo a bull’s-eye for opposing players on the ice. “I do a lot of weight training for giving and taking hits,” he says. “I get bumped a lot, so I do work for my shoulders to prevent popping them.” (You can see the fruits of his labor in “The Bare Essentials Workout.”)
While he dreams of winning the Stanley Cup, Cheechoo’s biggest goal is keeping it real. “I don’t set goals to be famous, just to improve — and to be happy.”
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