SFU Hockey veteran Arjan Cheema talks grades and on-ice expectations with The Peak

As one of just three returning defenceman, Cheema is primed for a leadership position with the Clan.

Cheema on the ice at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre. - Photo credit / SFU Hockey

By: Michael Lenko, Peak Associate

Coming off of a solid rookie season, in which he put up 11 points in 23 games, second year business student Arjan Cheema will return to the SFU Hockey team with a bigger role and expectations for the 2019–20 British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) season. On the ice, Cheema will be relied upon to help lead the new-look defensive unit for the Clan. Off the ice, Cheema expects himself to maintain a strong GPA while balancing work, school, and hockey. The Surrey, BC native sat down with The Peak to discuss his championship experience and his expectations for this season on the ice and at school. 

Given his status as a second year member of the team, The Peak asked Cheema about some of the things he feels the Clan can build on from last season, to which he pointed to the necessity of “sticking to the systems that [Head Coach] Mark [Coletta] implements.”

Pressed further about his personal expectations for the team this season, Cheema said that “Knowing the calibre of our team, I feel like it’s championship or bust. We have a group of guys that can compete at a high level, and I feel like expectations are to win a championship.”

On the topic of championships, Cheema was a member of the Aldergrove Kodiaks when they won the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) championship in 2016–17. When asked how significant that experience might be for the Clan in its pursuit of a BCIHL Championship, Cheema emphasized the importance of the achievement. 

“I think its huge,” he said. “Just taking things from that championship run and sharing it with the guys. Telling them what worked and what didn’t work. Just letting them know what it takes to get there and just motivating the guys more.”

Interestingly, on the topic of motivation, when asked how he hopes to help the new players on the team with adjusting to the balancing act of attending SFU while playing hockey, Cheema had some unique advice. 

“I’ve been letting them know to just stay in the moment, so they don’t get overwhelmed. To take one step at a time and to just make sure that they’re on top of everything. Being a student athlete takes a lot of sacrifice and you have to stay disciplined.”

For himself this season, Cheema is driven not just to survive as a student athlete, but to thrive. “Off the ice, I want to maintain a good GPA. On the ice, I just want to do my job as a defenceman, stop pucks from going in [our net] and just help my team get some more wins.” 

With only three returning defenceman on the roster, Cheema’s experience will be relied on heavily this year. Fans of SFU Hockey will be able to see Cheema and the rest of the Clan in action at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre many times this month as the team’s BCIHL season kicks into high gear with seven games in November.