The way some fans speak about hockey players, you’d almost be forgiving for forgetting that they are human beings.
Analysing statistics, form and every aspect of their game, the human element of a hockey player is lost at times.
We all respond better and produce more at our place of work when we are treated with respect and shown a level of compassion and understanding.
This brings me to talking about Jonathan Cheechoo.
Reaching the peak of his career in 2005/06 where he won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy after scoring 56 goals, it was a downward trend from thereon in.
A concussion the following season saw his game drop off and he was traded to Ottawa where he spent the 2009/10 season between the Senators and their AHL farm team in Binghamton.
Three further seasons in the AHL were spent in Worcester, Peoria and Oklahoma as Cheechoo was unable to find a new team to settle with, let alone get another shot in the NHL.
He took the bold move of signing for Croatian team KHL Medveščak Zagreb, who had recently been accepted into the KHL for the 2013/14 season.
At 33 years old, with a wife and a young son, many players would have thought twice about packing up their things and moving their family to a different country to ply their trade.
However that was part of the appeal for Cheechoo. Grinding it out in the AHL for the past few seasons, where he spent the majority of the time on his lonesome is a far cry from now, as his family can watch home games and he gets to spend more time with his young son.
As I’ve found myself, the people of Zagreb are welcoming and Medveščak Zagreb as a whole come across as a family rather than just a hockey club.
The fans took to their new superstar, vociferously cheering him on from the stands whilst showing him and his family respect off the ice.
The results have spoken for themselves as Cheechoo responded with excellent play and led the team in goals and points at the finish of the regular season.
Tied 10th in the entire KHL for goals is a great return for a man only having his second taste of European hockey, but this time at a much higher level.
As shown above, a settled and happy Jonathan Cheechoo has been a roaring success for himself and his new team.
Being a new and smaller team, Medveščak cannot pay their players the big money some other Russian clubs are able to. Earlier this season it was reported that Metalurg Magnitogorst, a Russian team 1700km east of Moscow, had offered Cheechoo as much as three times what he was earning with Medvescak.
Upon asked about being offered such money, Cheechoo responded by saying that his family were happy and settled in Zagreb, they enjoyed the way of life in Croatia and that not all hockey decisions are based around making more money.
Who would have thought?