Before Ray Payne joined the expansion San Jose Sharks as a full-time scout in September 1990, he was a part-time math teacher.
Who knew, about a decade later, that 1998 Sharks second-round pick Jonathan Cheechoo would become one of his students?
San Jose Hockey Now caught up with Payne today. Now a Portland Winterhawks scout, the 78-year-old has worked in hockey for over 50 years. From 1990-94, he was San Jose’s Eastern Scouting Supervisor, then from 1996-2004, he was Chief Scout. In both capacities, his focus was amateur scouting.
So San Jose Sharks draft picks Ray Whitney, Sandis Ozolinsh, Mike Rathje, Jeff Friesen, Patrick Marleau, Scott Hannan, Cheechoo, Joe Pavelski…you name it, Payne had a hand.
But Cheechoo might have been more special because of his remarkable origin story — “Made In Moose Country” — and because the Sharks and Payne believed in the 2006 Rocket Richard Trophy winner just a little more than everybody else.
“Jonathan was a pretty decent pick for the second round that a lot of people did not agree with,” Payne said. “Not necessarily on our staff — other teams did not see the same thing in Jonathan that we did.”
But anyway, that’s a tale for another time. This story is about Jonathan Cheechoo and math.
At the time, a teenage Cheechoo was skating for the Belleville Bulls.
“He was always able to get the opportunities, but he couldn’t always cash in,” the San Jose Sharks scout recalled. “He had trouble finishing.”
The former math teacher decided it was time for Cheechoo to brush up on volume: “I remember one time, I had to take him down, and I brought a net out. And we did some mathematical problems.
“I said, ‘Jonathan, I want you to figure out the area of this net. It’s 6′ x 4′. Figure out how many square feet are in it.’
“Then I showed him a puck. I said, ‘This is the size of a puck. Figure out the area of the puck and tell me how many pucks will fit into that net.’
“He worked it all out. And I said, ‘I understand there’s always going to be a goaltender there. Or maybe somebody else in the crease. But if you figure the amount of space there is in the net and the size of the puck, you should be able to find a hole somewhere.’
“I don’t know if it helped him any or not. It certainly made him think about it. I could see the wheels going around in his head. Probably thinking what the hell is this guy saying to me?”
In the end, Cheechoo would defy even Payne’s calculations.
“He turned out to be more of an offensive player than I thought he would,” Payne acknowledged of the franchise’s only 50-goal scorer. “To be quite honest, I thought Jonathan would probably be a bottom-six player who could get some time on a second line.”
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