Another athlete from Eeyou Istchee is making waves in the competitive hockey world. This time it’s 16-year-old Adam Cheezo, who was born in Mistissini and grew up in Eastmain. Cheezo was drafted by the Val-d’Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League June 6 and recently cracked the team’s roster for the 2015-16 QMJHL season.
Cheezo has made impressive progress in the last few years, reaching the Major Juniors all the way from Midget AA in two seasons. In 2012, he joined the Cree Nation Bears and notched a remarkable 25 goals and 19 assists over 28 games.
Last year with the Midget AAA Amos Forestiers, the 170-pound, 6’1” forward tallied 14 goals and 18 assists to merit his third-round selection by the Foreurs in the QMJHL draft. Cheezo made it through an intense pre-season training camp, a series of roster cuts and exhibition games to earn a spot competing against some of the best teenage hockey players in Quebec.
“The training camp was hard,” Cheezo told the Nation. “Lots of other good players were fighting for a spot. I had to focus on what was important, working hard on and off the ice. It was tough but I just wanted it that bad.”
Adam and his mother Charlotte Cheezo both mentioned that he has been through a lot in life, and he cited his mom, father Terry Mark-Stewart and stepdad Raymond Shanoush as big influences and sources of support. While both Adam and Charlotte declined to share any of the personal details, it’s clear that the younger Cheezo is mature, independent and focused on pursuing his dream of playing hockey at an elite level.
“My stepdad pushed me a lot to train and be better every day,” said Adam. “He’s the one that kept me going even though I’ve been through tough times and faced a lot of obstacles. My family is very supportive, I love them and I want to make them proud.”
When asked how he can contribute to the Foreurs this year, Adam said he’d love to be the go-to guy but he knows that competing in the QMJHL won’t be easy.
“My goal is to be the best I can be on and off the ice,” he said in typical hockey player fashion. “Just work hard and give it my best.”
Charlotte says her son has been playing hockey since he was two years old and shared a few of her memories of his involvement in the sport, including the time she first strapped him into a pair of skates shortly after he learned how to walk.
“When he started walking I put him in a pair of skates and he started walking around with them. He wanted to wear them all day,” she laughed. “I had to install carpet in the living room because he was scratching the floor!”
Charlotte added that Adam is a caring individual who has dealt with a lot of adversity but is still very motivated to succeed.
“He’s got a big heart,” she said. “He loves to do things for others and he can be sensitive at times but that’s because he’s been through a lot. I mean a lot.”
Charlotte said that while it’s been tough having Adam away from home from the age of 13 (since he started out in Midget AA), she’s proud of what he’s been able to accomplish.
“We’ve been going to his games since he started playing with the Cree Nation Bears in 2012,” said Charlotte. “I try to catch almost every game. Whenever I can’t make it to any of his games I encourage his dad to go and support him.”
Then she added, “He amazes me. He’s taken really big steps to get to where he is now. One year he was in Midget AA, one year he was in Midget AAA and now he’s already in the Quebec Majors. I’ve always had faith in him, I’ve always believed in him.”
The Val-d’Or Foreurs kick off their season September 11 when they visit the Victoriaville Tigers. The following Saturday they play the Voltigeurs of Drummondville leading up to their home opener on September 19 at the Air Creebec Centre in Val-d’Or.