Just because he’s a professional hockey player doesn’t mean Yuri Cheremetiev doesn’t have homework.
The STU student signed with the Fayetteville FireAntz of the Southern Professional Hockey League on March 14. Cheremetiev was contacted by FireAntz head coach Emery Olauson, dropped everything, and spent a full day travelling to North Carolina to join the team.
But the fourth year still has to finish his assignments and keep up with his classes.
“It’s not like getting behind or I’m not doing any work. I still have to do schoolwork while I’m out here – which is kind of terrible. But I have to what I have to do,” he said. “I spoke to my professors and they’re the reason I was actually able to get away.”
Cheremetiev grew up in Stoughton, a suburb of Boston. He got into hockey around age 12, a relatively late start for most players. He wasn’t serious about making a career out of playing hockey until he moved to Halifax at 16 to play for the Mooseheads. He played with them until he was recruited to St. Thomas when he was 21.
“I had a good first year. The second and third years were rough for the organization and for myself … In this last year with Pat Powers, it’s just been a great experience. He’s honestly one of the best coaches I’ve had.”
Powers is how Cheremetiev made the connection with Olauson. The two coaches played together earlier in their careers and when Olauson reached out to Powers asking if he had any players who wanted to play pro, Powers gave him Cheremetiev’s name.
“[Olauson] knew the CIS was a very competitive league,” he said. “He sounded very optimistic about his plans for me so I honestly didn’t have to think too much. I had a day to think about it and all I could see were positives as to furthering my hockey career.”
Cheremetiev then rushed to try and make it to Fayetteville, North Carolina, for his first game with the FireAntz. He left Fredericton during a blizzard, caught a flight out of Bangor, and made it to Fayetteville after a full day of travel. He played his first game on March 14 against the Louisiana IceGators.
His first game with the FireAntz was tough because he had been off the ice since Feb. 15, when the St. Thomas Tommies ended their season. He said his conditioning needed adjusting because playing pro hockey is different from university hockey. But in his second game with the FireAntz Cheremetiev recorded his first professional point when he assisted a goal.
Cheremetiev has been having a positive experience in Fayetteville so far. He said the trope of Southern kindness makes sense to him now.
“I understand what southern hospitality is now. Not only the guys on the team, they’re all good to me, but just the people around the city. They’re very nice and offer a helping hand.”
The rink atmosphere is a big change from what he’s experienced in his career. Fayetteville’s home rink seats about 8,500 and in his second game he played to 4,400. Having so many fans is something that’s helping Cheremetiev’s mid-season transition.
Cheremetiev’s friends and family have been a big support during this time. His mother and brother still live in Stoughton, while his father is in Russia. He said his mother isn’t hugely into hockey but is still incredibly excited for this opportunity. His roommate, Tommies hockey player Jonathan Bonneau, has been keeping him updated on the STU scene and giving him words of encouragement.
The Fayetteville FireAntz stand in second-last place in the Southern Professional Hockey League. They played their last game of the season Saturday night, in which Cheremetiev snagged an assist. He has three points in five games with the team.
Cheremetiev will return to Fredericton in May to attend graduation and receive his degree in criminology. He said being able to play hockey whilst simultaneously receiving an education was a major positive for him.
“I’m very glad I [played for STU]. I’m glad I got my education too. It’s not only about the hockey. I’m going to get a degree and the hockey has just propelled me into what I want to do with my career. Putting myself to work the last four years has definitely been worth it,” he said.
And of course, one of the perks of living in North Carolina for Cheremetiev is the weather.
“That was one of the reasons I decided to come here because I didn’t mind a little vacation from the winter blizzards that we’ve been having in Fredericton.”
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