Veteran forward Jonathan Cheechoo formally announced his retirement from the game of hockey on Tuesday, following 16 professional seasons, nine of which he spent as a member of the San Jose Sharks. "Cheech" took part in a total of 501 NHL games with San Jose and the Ottawa Senators, scoring 170 goals, 135 assists for a total of 305 points, and also tallied 324 penalty minutes.
The right winger was selected in the second round, 29th overall by the Sharks back in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. During his third full season with San Jose in 2005-06, Cheechoo tallied an impressive 56 goals in 82 contests, easily winning the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy. He became the first member of the Sharks to bring home this trophy.
Cheechoo made an emotional statement following his announcement, available on NHL.com:
"I have been privileged to be able to reach my goals and to play the game that I love," said Cheechoo. "Hockey has taken me from Moose Factory to San Jose and many places around the world.
"First of all, I would like to thank the San Jose Sharks organization for drafting me and giving me the opportunity of playing in the National Hockey League. We had many awesome years of incredible hockey! I want to thank all of my former teammates. It was an awesome experience to play alongside all of you. You made the game enjoyable and helped me to become a better player and person.
I'd like to thank my agent, Thane Campbell, for his support, guidance and belief in me along the journey. And to all of the incredible fans - your faithful support give us strength and energy to play with passion each night. To the community of Moose Factory -my extended family - thank you for your support and encouragement. It was a thrill to represent you all.
"A big thanks to my Mom and Dad, brother, Jordan, and sister, Kari. I definitely would not have made it without your unwavering support.
"Last but not least, I want to thank my wife, Ashley, and my son, Jack, who were my biggest fans. Thank you for enthusiastically joining me on this fantastic hockey journey that often took me away from you guys.
"I leave the game I love with wonderful memories, great friends, great fans and an awesome family that enjoyed the journey with me. I have been blessed!"
He last played in the NHL for the Senators in 2009-10, taking part in 61 contests and one playoff game for the Canadian club. Cheechoo played parts of four seasons in the American Hockey League and has spent the past four seasons playing in the Kontinental Hockey League after his NHL career.
Cheechoo will be recognized by the Sharks before their March 24 home game against the Calgary Flames.
“With the tremendous support of his immediate family and his extended Cree First Nations family, Jonathan completed a remarkable journey from one of North America’s remote locations to an elite National Hockey League player,” said Sharks GM Doug Wilson in a statement. “His hard work and persistence made him one of the most beloved players in Sharks history. Off the ice, you would be hard-pressed to find a more humble and respectful individual. We congratulate him and his family on a fantastic hockey career.”