Cheyne Matheson: Globetrotting And Goal Scoring
He’s spent the past 4 seasons playing professional hockey in Europe, in Belgium, and this past season in Sweden.
The Wheatley Sharks and Leamnigton Flyers alumni made the difficult choice to move on to playing in Sweden this past season after three successful campaigns in BeNeLiga in Belgium.
“Although it was an amazing experience in Belgium, with great teammates, friends and fans the move to Sweden was one that took the hockey to another level,” said Matheson. “Not only was the hockey another step up but the Swedish people were very welcoming and accepted us right into their community.”
Matheson played this season for Kiruna AIF finishing third on his team in scoring with 20 goals and 33 points in 26 games.
Language barriers have been a challenge at times for Matheson, but the chance to play professionally abroad was one he couldn’t pass up.
“Before heading to Europe I had some worries,” he said of the choice to play in Belgium. “I wasn’t familiar with where I was going in my first year overseas. There were a lot of question marks on and off the ice, but once I had the chance to get on the ice and showcase myself everything became easier and more relaxing as I made more friends and fit in well with my teammates. In Europe as a Canadian hockey player it could be stressful. Leagues can have limits on import players and as an import you are relied on heavily and paid to produce points. If you don’t you could be expendable.”
Luckily for Matheson, who spent four seasons playing NCAA Division III hockey, captaining New England College, he was able to produce in a big way.
In 2017-2018, playing for Liege in BeNeLiga, Matheson led the league in points with 75 in only 24 games, followed by a league goal scoring title in 2018-2019, notching 35 goals in 22 games
For Matheson, hockey in Europe has been his lone focus, allowing him the mental and physical space to continue his development.
“For myself, I wasn’t working a job, so I spent much of my time working on improving my game and health. This allowed me to be confident and produce on the ice. Doing well on the ice helped build relationships with my teammates, fans and many people throughout the cities. Until I went overseas, I had never played in arenas that are so packed, over capacity and relentlessly noisy. Fans were the most loyal and would go far out of their way to help the team or players out in any way possible.”
“Hockey in Europe may not be Canadian hockey. But Canadian players in Europe have an opportunity to build and improve the game of hockey overseas while under a spotlight,” he continued.
“And although hockey in Europe could be tough and stressful as an import, It has been such an amazing experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Right now, Matheson does not know where he’ll end up next season, in part due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, he has options to return to Sweden, or to play professionally in Germany.
Living in Europe, Matheson’s roommate has been another local product, former Chatham Maroons star Kyle Brothers. The two were living in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, which swept across much of Europe, devastating the continent.
“In early January everyone was familiar with the coronavirus and how it was spreading through Europe, but no one was really taking special precautions,” Matheson explained.
“Then in March the news was everywhere. Europe was being devastated, but Sweden didn’t really make any rules and restrictions. There were less flights arriving and departing and some clubs were closed down. But bars and restaurants remained open, still to this day.”
“For myself and roommate Kyle Brothers it ended up getting stressful planning our immediate trip home in mid March. We had planned to stay until April, but were advised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to return immediately. We then had several flights canceled and altered on our way from Stockholm through London into Toronto. After a couple days and a night of travel we finally made it home for a two week quarantine.”
The entire ordeal was a frightening one.
“It was scary having to up and leave within hours. And traveling through airports and being on airplanes was sketchy as we didn’t know if we had caught or could catch the virus.”
“All in all it was a frightening experience but we were happy and blessed to make it back home to our families, healthy.”
While a timeline is unclear, a healthy and prepared Cheyne Matheson will undoubtedly be making an on ice impact overseas again next season.