By CURTIS J. PHILLIPS, Connect Contributor
Dan Hodgson, 20 years; Chris Phillips, 18 years and counting; Nolan Pratt, 16 years; Harlan Pratt, 15 years and Trevor Buchanan, 13 years.
Add to the list of “Hometown Hockey Heroes” that stood the test of time – be it in the National Hockey League (NHL) or minor professional hockey circuit – Dan Stewart, as he enters his 14th year of lacing up the skates for a pay cheque.
He is about to set a record for durability as having played the most games for an international hockey player in Great Britain’s Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL). Connect caught up with Stewart in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, where he plays for the Fife Flyers.
Connect: “Danny, did you ever think that you would have been entering your tenth year playing in EIHL?
“I could never have imagined that I would be spending 10 years at this level in the UK,” said Stewart, 36, who spent his first three years of pro hockey in the North American United Hockey League
“I could never have imagined that I would be spending 10 years at this level in the UK,” said Stewart, 36, who spent his first three years of pro hockey in the North American United Hockey League. “When I first came over it was to get my foot into Europe and see a different part of the world whilst continuing to play the game I loved. Many factors have played part in me staying over here but in short, I have enjoyed my time here and have made a good living playing a sport!”
Connect: “How has it changed your life” was our next query?
“It has not changed my life that much, day to day,” said Stewart, a five-foot-ten defenceman. “Probably the biggest change has been limiting my time with family and close friends that I grew up with. It’s tough sometimes being away from everyone, but life leads us in different directions and I still stay in touch with a lot of good people in Canada, and specifically Fort McMurray.”
Another major change is that his better half, Harrier, is expecting their first child in a few weeks: “We have been together six years now and we are very excited to be welcoming our new addition.”
Family and hockey is important to Stewart, his two older brothers Bobby and Jay having played integral roles.
“Bobby and Jay have been very influential,” said Stewart of his brothers. Bobby captained the Maine Black Bears to an NCAA Division I title, while Jay skated around the ice as part of the NCAA Division III champ University of Wisconsin at Superior Yellow Jackets.
“I always looked up to them growing up, as they were both very good players themselves. I always took part of their game and tried to make them my own,” he said.
“I always looked up to them growing up, as they were both very good players themselves. I always took part of their game and tried to make them my own,” he said. “I think I ended up a bit of a combination of both in the sense that they both played different styles and I ended up a bit of a combo of skill and grit. The biggest influence was probably off the ice where years of being the youngest left me with a bit of an edge and the ability to cope with anything thrown my way. I am sure anybody with two older brothers could relate to what I mean.”
Stewart, who played his post-secondary hockey at Miami University in Ohio, had a chance to play competitive hockey with his brothers in later years; Jay in 1997-98 with the Junior A Oakville Blades and in the pro ranks with Bobby and the 2003-2004 Fort Wayne Komets.
“Playing with Bobby is something I never thought I would get the chance to do due to our age gap (five years), but we had a lot of fun that year… other than dropping the gloves in our first full practice together. They broke it up quick as Bobby was the top scorer the year before (48 goals 34 assists) and they want the rookie putting him on the IR.”
Of his future in the sport, Stewart says: “As to how long I will play? I’m not even sure. I take it year by year right now and judge things by how my body feels and my state of mind. Starting a family may change things as well, but for right now I still enjoy playing and being competitive.
“I guess the main thing to explain my longevity would be hard work and never getting complacent. Many guys at the minor pro level lose that work ethic once the dream of making the NHL passes us by and it’s those that keep the good habits and work rate that succeed at his level.”
Filling the role of player/coach the last few years, Stewart anticipates one day going full time wearing the suit and tie behind the bench.
“I took on the player/head coach role in Newcastle Vipers (2010-2011) for a low budget club for one season, it was definitely quite the experience. And, I learned as much in that season as some do in five. Shortly after my arrival, in Fife, and I was made player/assistant coach my first season. The past four seasons, including this one, I have been player/ associate coach.”
Catch you on the rebound.
– Connect Weekly –