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Curtains close on the curious career of Jonathan Cheechoo

(Associated Press)

Pavel Bure, Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and, err, Jonathan Cheechoo? One of those names just doesn’t belong.

The quartet architected the most productive goal-scoring seasons in the NHL over the past 20 years. Bure, a 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, posted 58 and 59-goal campaigns in back-to-back seasons from 1999 to 2001. Stamkos buried 60 in 2011-12, joining Ovechkin as the only two players to score 60 or more goals in a season in the last 22 years.

Cheechoo, meanwhile, posted 56 tallies in 2005-06, cementing him as one of only four players to bury 55-plus in a single campaign in the last two decades. The 37-year-old, who found himself completely out of the NHL less than four years after his monumental season, officially announced his retirement from hockey in a statement Tuesday.

“I have been privileged to be able to reach my goals and to play the game that I love, hockey has taken me from Moose Factory to San Jose and many places around the world.”

As a 25-year-old coming out of the 2004-05 lockout in his third full NHL season, Cheechoo set the NHL ablaze, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal-scorer while setting a San Jose Sharks standard that still stands today. He retires as No. 8 on San Jose’s all-time scoring list, sixth in goals, and his nine hat tricks are the most in Sharks franchise history.

In one of the most off-balanced stat-lines of any player to ever skate in the NHL, a whopping 32.9 percent of the 170 tallies Cheechoo recorded in his career were scored during that one, legendary 2004-05 campaign.

Unlike Bure, Stamkos and Ovechkin, however, there will be no Hall of Fame invite sitting at this retiree’s doorstep. Despite firing off one of the best offensive seasons in recent history and seemingly at the very beginning of his prime, Cheechoo declined suddenly and dramatically, seeing his goal-scoring production dip to 37, to 23, to 12, to 5 in his four subsequent seasons before finding himself as a mainstay in the American Hockey League by 2010.

The product of Moose Factory, Ontario spent six of his NHL seasons in San Jose before being flipped to the Senators as a part of a deal to bring in an unhappy Dany Heatley from Ottawa.


After being assigned to Binghamton during his one and only season in the nation’s capital, Cheechoo battled injuries and fluctuating playing time — limited to just 185 games during four seasons in the AHL — before bolting for Russia’s top league at the start of the 2013-14. During four campaigns in the KHL, the now 37-year-old managed 73 goals and 164 points in 217 games. He didn’t suit up for any team in any league this season.

Jonathan Cheechoo remains a franchise icon in San Jose.

Despite not being able to build off his monster season, Cheechoo still put together a very respectable pro-hockey career which spanned 17 seasons, three different league’s and two continents. His effect on the San Jose Sharks franchise cannot be undersold, either, and GM Doug Wilson made that clear in a release of his own on Tuesday.

“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.”

The team will honour Cheechoo with a pre-game ceremony on March 24th.

Though he’ll remain in Sharks folklore for years to come, and a legend in his home community of Moose Factory, Cheechoo’s name will likely fade into the oblivion for most casual hockey fans. He’ll be one of only a handful of players of the last half-century to score 56 goals in a season and not end up in the HOF.

But, hey, we’ll always have 2006.