Minor Hockey Moments: Anthony Stewart

 

Anthony Stewart was drafted 25th overall in the first round of the 2003 entry draft by the Florida Panthers. As captain of the Kingston Frontenacs in 2004, Stewart lobbied head coach, Larry Mavety, to give his younger brother Chris a tryout as an undrafted free agent.

 
 
 
 
 

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Anthony Stewart was drafted 25th overall in the first round of the 2003 entry draft by the Florida Panthers. As captain of the Kingston Frontenacs in 2004, Stewart lobbied head coach, Larry Mavety, to give his younger brother Chris a tryout as an undrafted free agent. Chris made the team and turned out to follow his older brother as the next Frontenac player drafted in the first round when he went 18th overall to the Colorado Avalanche in 2006. Stewart has a gold and silver medal from the World Junior Championships and an U18 Championship gold medal.

The poor neighbourhoods of east Toronto are a long way from the sandy beaches of Miami, but the distance between the two cities poetically reflects Anthony Stewart’s long journey to the NHL. One of seven children born to a Jamaican immigrant and a Canadian mother, Stewart made do with what he had, riding public transit to games and practices and playing with used equipment. “My cousin actually played for [Florida Panthers head coach] DeBoer in junior,” said Stewart. “He gave me some equipment and I went from there.”

Stewart was supported by both his parents and played his first hockey at Heron Park Arena in Scarborough, Ontario. “My mom funded my hockey, but my dad would be the one taking me on the bus to the games. We’d bus to all the games,” said Stewart of his dependence on public transit for transportation to hockey. “He was really dedicated and I wouldn’t have being able to get where I am without him.”

His father, Norman Stewart, had a distinct appreciation for the backhand shot, calling it the “the most dangerous shot in the game” and was a lively supporter before, during and after games. “On the way home on the bus, my dad was pretty animated,” said Stewart. “He would always run up and down the ice following the play during games. He had lots of fun.”

Stewart played the majority of his minor hockey career with the North York Jr. Canadiens—a talented team that also featured future Minnesota Wild star, Brent Burns. “I was on that team for six years,” said Stewart. “Kevin Robinson was my coach for the whole time and he influenced me in a great way, on and off the ice.” While with the Jr. Canadiens, Stewart recalls favouring some rinks over others. “I hated going to play the Toronto Marlboros at George Bell arena (named after the famous Canadian soldier, not the former Toronto Blue Jay Outfielder),” said Stewart. “We used to sit in traffic for hours getting there and the benches only had one door. One rink I loved playing at was St. Mike’s. It was small, but with all the history there, I loved it.”

Though Stewart didn’t carry many superstitions with him to the NHL, he can’t help but see the connection between wearing the number 13 (one of his favourite players growing up was Mats Sundin) and success. “It seems every year that I didn’t wear 13, I had bad luck,” said Stewart. “For my first few years here I wore number 57 and I got injured and didn’t play as well as I wanted.” The 239 lb power forward is very happy he got his number this year and also appreciates the high quality equipment he gets to use in the pros, but still wishes he didn’t have to give up everything. “I miss wearing the smaller shoulder pads,” said Stewart. It was easier to stickhandle, but now with all the big hits in the NHL I have to wear bigger ones.”

When asked to recall a highlight from his minor hockey career Stewart answered with little hesitation. “When I was eight years old I played in the finals of the Silver Stick tournament at Maple Leaf Gardens,” remembered Stewart. “I scored a hat-trick.” “Another great memory was winning the big peewee tournament in Quebec City,” said Stewart. “I still remember the bus trip there watching all the Don Cherry Rock’em Sock’em movies and having fun with the boys.”

 
 
 
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