Sergei “Cheeka” Tchekmarev, longtime Red Wings Massage Therapist, passes away at 65  

Red Wings legendary Massage Therapist passes

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The Detroit Red Wings organization suffered more than just a loss on the ice Friday night. The team spoke together after their game delaying the post-game press conference by 20 minutes.

Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press asked Frans Nielsen about a player meeting after the game. “No, it was something else. Nothing I really should talk about, I’m sure it’s going to come out,” Nielsen said.

Head Coach Jeff Blashill was emotional when he announced that longtime Red Wings massage therapist Sergei Tchekmarev, better known as “Cheeka,” had passed away.

Russian Royalty 

Tchekmarev was born October 7th, 1955, in Moskva, Russia. In 1982-83, he joined CSKA Moskva and the Soviet Union team for the World Championships as the Massage Therapist.

In his first season, the Soviet Union team won gold. Vladislav Tretiak leading the way in goal.  On that team was six-foot, future Red Wing defenseman Yvacheslav “Slava” Fetisov. Igor Larionov was also on the team, adding five goals and seven assists in nine games.

Tchekmarev was a mainstay for a pipeline of future exceptional talent in the NHL. For instance, in 1988-89, Vladimir Konstantinov, Sergi Zubov, Pavel Bure, Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Mogilny was on the team with Larionov and Fetisov. They just needed the pathway to get there. 

Finally, in July of 1990, the opening was made. The Soviet Union National Program played an exhibition game at Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. Red Wings executive vice president and chief operating officer Jim Lites were hiding in a hotel lobby, hoping to bring Sergi Fedorov to the Red Wings.  

Ending of an era

As detailed in Keith Gave’s “The Russian Five: A story of espionage, defection, bribery, and courage,” Fedorov and Lites gathered in the hotel lobby to get Federov to get on a plane to Detroit so he could defect from Russia and join the Red Wings. Fedorov said he needed “Thirty seconds,” with the risk of being caught, he decided to walk his friend to the elevator for a hasty, emotional departure, and reached into his pocket and took out all the money he’d saved after four years of playing hockey as a professional in the Soviet Union, about $1,500, and put it into his roommate and trusted friend Sergi Tchekmarev hands.  

1992-93 would be his last season with CSKA Moskva, which had defenseman Yevgeni Namestnikov, brother-in-law of Vyacheslav Kozlov (who played with CSKA Moskva in 1991-92), and father of current Red Wings forward Vladislav Namestnikov.

His tenure from 1982-1992 with four World Championship Gold Medals and three Olympic Gold Medals.  

From San Jose to Home

In 1993-94, Tchekmarev and Igor Larionov both joined the San Jose Sharks. During the 1995-96 season, Larionov was traded to the Red Wings and started the famous “Russian Five.” Tchekmarev stayed with the Sharks till the 1997-98 season. The next year Detroit would become his home joining the Red Wings for the next 23 seasons.

The Red Wings Stanley Cup 2001-02 championship, therefore, giving Tchekmarev another accolade, Triple Gold Club status. He has been a part of winning a World Championship Gold Medal, an Olympic Gold Medal, and a Stanley Cup.  

 

“He was an unreal man,” Blashill remarked, “He made it fun to be around the rink. I’ve known him for 10-plus years. He was here for 20 plus years. I just think it’s really important that we honor him.”  

 

With tears in his eyes, Blashill continued, “He was one of the best people I’ve ever been around. One of the kindest. Cared and had an unreal outlook on life.” and concluded, “My heart goes out to his family. And certainly, to so many people around here that loved him, including myself.”  

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