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From the farm to the front office

Wednesday, 07.27.2011 / 12:47 PM CT / Feature
By Kalen Qually
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From the farm to the front office
Kevin Cheveldayoff has travelled a long way from the farm to the front office. But as Chevy points out, there are a lot of similarities between the tractor on his parents’ Saskatchewan farm and the desk he currently sits at as the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets.

“Growing up on a farm, I learned about work ethic and that you have to believe in something,” said Chevy talking about his upbringing in Blaine Lake, a farming community 50 miles north of Saskatoon.

“When you plant a seed in the ground, you have to believe it’s going to grow. And when you do something on the hockey side (as a general manager), you have to have faith it’s going to become a strength on your team.”

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff
Cheveldayoff’s gravel road through hockey began in the prairie city of Brandon, MB where he played four seasons with the Wheat Kings from 1987-1990. It was during this time that Chevy became acquainted with an equipment manager who possessed great people skills and a keen eye for talent. Craig Heisinger and Chevy re-acquainted years later as rivals in the International Hockey League, Zinger with the Manitoba Moose and Chevy with the Chicago Wolves.

After 12 seasons as the general manager of the Chicago Wolves, Chevy was hired as the assistant GM of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009-10 and won the Stanley Cup in his first season on the job. One year later, Zinger phoned up his friend and former rival to offer him the general manager job of Winnipeg’s new NHL team.

On his way to Winnipeg for his own press conference, Chevy with his wife, Janet, and kids, Chase and Alexi, received an especially warm welcome at the border when they were renamed the “The Royal Family” by the border guard crossing into Manitoba.

“The border guard asked me two questions,” recalled Chevy.  “He asked me ‘What is the team’s name?’ and ‘When are you going to win the Stanley Cup?’”

Hoping that Chevy’s resume is a strong indicator, the answer to the second question might be ‘soon’. Chevy has four Turner Cup championships from the IHL, two Calder Cup championships from the AHL, and most recently a Stanley Cup in 2010.

Chevy’s family will remain living in their Chicago home for the time being while the Jets’ GM adjusts to his new surroundings. The Cheveldayoff’s are already familiar with the city as Janet’s family is originally from Melita, MB.

“Ironically in a lot of ways Winnipeg was always a vacation for us,” said Chevy. “With my wife being from Manitoba, a lot of times vacations would venture into the city.”

Judging by the general manager’s exhausting new work schedule and lengthy to-do list, this latest trip to Winnipeg hardly seems like a vacation.