Farewell, Jonathan Cheechoo (PHT on Fantasy)


The common belief is that, inevitably, a person will look at their childhood as a “golden age.” That’s the power of nostalgia.

Perhaps a similar phenomenon occurs when fantasy hockey is most important to you.

These days, I can win a fantasy hockey (or football) league, and no doubt, it can be fun. That’s especially true if the award involves actual money, whether it be the top prize of a league or the instant gratification of Daily Fantasy Sports.

In all honesty, those memories tend to fade, even as “less important” moments stick. For me, Jonathan Cheechoo will always carry a special significance in fantasy hockey despite only being on one of my teams and despite that team not even winning thanks to the dastardly Cristobal Huet.

Maybe it’s all about the thrill of identifying a player you might want, waiting a moment to make sure that guy is actually lining up where you expect, risking that someone else will notice, and then hitting that “add/drop” button at just the right time?

Upon learning that Joe Thornton was foolishly traded from the Boston Bruins to the San Jose Sharks for a bag of mulch, I knew that someone lucky winger would hit the “Big Bird” sweepstakes. Sadly, my memory doesn’t account for how I figured that “Cheech” would be the guy; maybe it was because of the now-37-year-old scoring 28 goals in 2003-04, the last NHL season before the lockout? Either way, Cheechoo was very much on my radar, but there needed to be evidence that he’d be riding shotgun with Thornton.

When you think of Cheechoo, you think of Joe Thornton. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images for NHL)

So, eagerly, I tuned into Thornton’s debut with the Sharks, a 5-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 2, 2005. Just 5:10 into the first period, Cheechoo scored his eighth goal of the season, with Thornton grabbing the primary assist. That was enough for me to add Cheechoo, making the second goal of that night feel like a victory lap, even though Cheechoo’s stats wouldn’t count for my fantasy team just yet.

From that point on, Cheechoo would score 47 more goals to give him 56 on the season, winning his lone Maurice Richard Trophy during that memorable 2005-06 run.

[Cheechoo announces retirement from hockey]

It’s easy to incorrectly remember that Cheechoo was a one-hit wonder, but while the drop was steep, he added a 37-goal campaign in 2006-07 and also scored 23 goals in 2007-08.

Aside from keeper leagues, the beauty of a season like Cheechoo hitting 56 is that the letdown doesn’t have to matter. For me, it never did, as he never ended up on one of my teams again. One was enough, as even though that team didn’t win, it will always hold a spot in my hockey heart, and Cheechoo was the main reason why.

I figure just about every fantasy hockey or fantasy sports fanatic has at least one player like this. Who was your Cheechoo?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.