When the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team hits the ice in Beijing, there'll be a Newfoundlander behind the scenes making sure the players are at their best.
Brian Cheeseman, an athletic therapist from Mount Pearl who lives and works in Edmonton, was named to the team's support staff Friday.
"Not bad for a guy from Mount Pearl who never really played a whole lot of high level sports in his life," he laughed.
"I don't think I've stopped smiling for about a week,tc and it's been hard to kind of keep a lid on things before the announcement came out.… It's an amazing opportunity and an amazing honour to be on the Olympic stage."
Cheeseman, who is also the director of sports medicine and rehabilitation for the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Elks, has been involved with Hockey Canada before, working with teams at the world junior championships and, most recently, at the Channel One Cup in Moscow in December.
He said he was also supposed to be part of the Spengler Cup in Switzerland over the holidays but the tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic.
But hockey's national governing body has come calling again.
"Hockey Canada reached out last week and asked would I be interested in being a part of the support staff for the men's hockey team, and it's just been an absolute whirlwind ever since," Cheeseman said.
Cheeseman said there's lots of work done being done to keep players and staff safe, including testing requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Beijing.
He's no stranger with living within COVID-19 regulations. Cheeseman spent 66 days and nights in the NHL's playoff bubble in Edmonton in 2020, and then went back into the bubble with Team Canada for the 2021 world juniors. He estimates he's been tested himself at least 200 times in the past two years, between his hockey and football work.
"There's little to no culture shock when it comes to that stuff," he said.
Cheeseman's preparations for the Olympics have already begun, he said, and as soon as the team roster is announced, he'll begin contacting players.
"As much as the coaches have a game plan, us as therapy staff and a medical staff, we have our own game plan too, so when we get these guys under our roof and in our care, we know exactly what they need," he said.
As a lifelong fan of the Olympic Games, Cheeseman said the game plan in China includes keeping an eye on some of the other events — particularly the curlers and fellow Newfoundlanders of Team Gushue.
"I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to run into them face-to-face there, but I know they'll be cheering the hockey team on and we'll be cheering them on," he said.
"There's a lot of camaraderie that's going to take place at this event, even in a pandemic, so it's going to be pretty special and it truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Cheeseman said he'll head to Europe next week for a training camp before continuing on to Beijing in early February — and hopefully returning with a gold medal.
"I can't even imagine what that feeling would be like to stand on the blue line in Beijing after a gold medal game and be singing O Canada to the top of your lungs as you're watching that flag get raised," he said.
"That would complete the bucket list, for sure."