As the cluster of students make their way to their next class amidst the hustle and bustle of a university campus, he sits with his elbows gently resting on the table. His car keys lay immobile. A golden chain hangs from his neck, the bottom of it barely visible as it tucks itself behind his white t-shirt. A calm demeanor, but a hockey player at heart.
For Yuri Cheremetiev, this demeanor represents some stability to a lifestyle that’s seen him live in three different countries and travel relentlessly.
“Moving to the States from Russia when I was four, I was too young to really remember that…and then I moved to Canada and it was the first time of me being on my own,” he said.
Cheremetiev was born in Moscow, Russia, but at the age of four he moved to the United States where he and his family resided in Stoughton, Mass.
At 16, Cheremetiev was recruited by the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and moved to Canada on his own.
“I had to get used to it really quickly,” he said. “I’m lucky I had a good set-up in Halifax.”
Cheremetiev, a skillful center who demonstrates great puck control, was playing in a QMJHL showcase tournament in New Hampshire when the Mooseheads noticed him and later that year decided to draft him. Over the course of his five years in Halifax, Cheremetiev racked up 112 points in 243 games, including 48 goals.
That production gave Cheremetiev the chance to briefly return home to Russia, after his fourth season, for a tryout after being drafted 33rd overall by CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League. Ultimately though, he decided to return to Halifax for a fifth year.
“It was cool getting a tryout with them and skating with them, but I chose to go back to Halifax. That was my 20-year-old year so I had one year of eligibility left,” he said.
Cheremetiev’s return to Russia was his first since leaving the country at four years old. Now 22, there is no hint of a Russian accent whatsoever. But he says he doesn’t remember much from his childhood because he was so young but has been told plenty of stories.
“My parents always told me about going to our grandmas cottage which I guess was a pretty good time,” he says as a broad smile sweeps across his face.
Before Cheremetiev could gather his own memories of Russia, he had moved to Stoughton, which he estimates is about 25 miles south of Boston. But even while living in the States he kept relocating and lived in Brookline, Newton and Canton as well as Stoughton.
It was at eight years old that Cheremetiev began playing hockey, acknowledging that was he a late starter. At 10, his father, Vadim, had built a rink in Stoughton with the help of Vladimir Lutchenko, a hero to many CSKA Moscow fans.
But at 16 Cheremetiev was snapped up by the Mooseheads and was on the move once again. He admits he found it challenging moving away from his family at such a tender age.
“It was difficult. Moving away from my norm and everything like that was pretty tough and hard to get used to. But you have to get the best out of it,” he says.
While Cheremetiev’s play on the ice didn’t show it, he struggled living without his parents. While his mother lived in Massachusetts, his father moved back to Moscow. Cheremetiev uses Skype to talk to his father and calls his mother every now and then but the international rates restrict the call’s longevity.
But Cheremetiev cherishes what they’ve been able to offer him to help him pursue his dreams. “They’ve both helped me out a lot with money… and just living here. They’ve both supported me.”
After playing nearly five years in Halifax, Cheremetiev joined the Truro Bearcats where he put up 48 points in just 27 games. It was at Truro where Cheremetiev was noticed by St. Thomas University. His head coach at the time, Shawn Evans, was good friends with former St. Thomas head coach and current athletics director Mike Eagles.
“At the time I didn’t really know what my future in hockey would be, so I talked to Mike and he offered me to come and play here,” Cheremetiev says.
Cheremetiev admits he could have continued his pro career elsewhere, but he made the decision to get an education and play hockey at the same time.
“I honestly thought that was the most mature thing to do, get an education and at the same time not be naive that I could play hockey the rest of my life,” the criminology major said.
Cheremetiev is unsure as to what the future holds for him. He still has two years left at St. Thomas, where he says he wants to focus on school and improve his hockey. But there’s no denying that Cheremetiev would cherish the opportunity to play pro hockey again.
“I mean, obviously, I’m always chasing the dream and hoping that something might happen,” he said.
For Cheremetiev, he’s just trying to live to see tomorrow. CSKA Moscow still holds his KHL rights until 2017, but for now Cheremetiev is just concentrating on life at STU.
The 2011-12 season has been a difficult one for Cheremetiev. A slow start, which resulted in Tommies head coach Troy Ryan calling him out for his poor play, has slowly started to turn around. He has nine points in 22 games this season, including three goals and a key shootout winner.
Cheremetiev admits it’s nice to have some stability to his once hectic travel schedule and is pleased to have found a home in Canada. His roots still lie in his past and he hasn’t forgotten, as his official Twitter account says: “Russia born, American raised, Canada Livin.”
“This is my seventh year in Canada so you can pretty much call me a Canadian citizen now.”