Chris Stewart remembers on the AvalancheEurolanche fan club did exclusive interview with the former player of the Colorado Avalanche.
Chris Stewart spent October 2012 in the 2-tier German hockey league playing for the Eispiraten Crimmitschau. He played in 9 games, scored 5 goals and added 6 assists. Then, he and his long-time friend Wayne Simmonds had decided to play in the elite Czech league playing for the HC Liberec. Stewart appeared in 5 games and gained only one assist. After that he decided to come back to Germany and play for the Eispiraten again. He should stay there until the end of the lockout and be back in the action today. Simmonds did the same; he left the team, but traveled back to Canada due serious family reasons. The management of the Czech team was shocked as the entire roster and staff was abroad in the Switzerland at the European tournament. The management approved to Stewart and Simmonds to do not have to travel. In spite of that, they are not long a part of the team.
Eurolanche fan club did exclusive interview with Chris Stewart last week in Liberec. In that time, it was uncertain how long he will stay there. Meanwhile, the general manager of the Czech team released the official statement on the departure of Stewart: „We did not expect the ending of the co-operation with Wayne Simmonds and Chris Stewart. Their course of the action was very substandard. They both had talks with the new head coach and talked about the current situation and their future in the team. We have met their wishes to do not travel with us to Switzerland due the current NHL talks on the CBA. Their decision has come in the time, when the whole management has traveled to Switzerland, so there were any talks or negotiations with players. The agent told us their decision via telephone. Stewart said about his end that it was matter of the lower ice time. He had not talked about that with anybody in the last days. He got the team in the position, when we had to agree with that and ended the contract.”
Why did you choose the Liberec hockey team?
My buddy Wayne and I were playing in the German league and the contracts expired. We had the opportunity to move up in the higher league. The main thing was we wanted to play together. We know they said the take us both. The legend like Petr Nedved, obviously great thing. And the facility here, it is the NHL facility. They have guys like Smid, Pavelec. (note: Pavelec has come back to the North America and waiting how the current NHL talks would continue)
Why you firstly started to play in the 2-tier German league? Did not you have offers from other teams?
Yeah, I had offers for myself, but the biggest thing is that Wayne has been my best friend for last 10-12 years. We wanted go together. They said they take us both. Probably, we moved a little but early, in late September. We wanted be in the game shape, when the lockout end. It is good experience for sure.
Can you compare these European leagues with the NHL?
You get here bigger ice. Especially in the Czech league are high skilled guys. They are very fast, pretty physical too like in the NHL. We played in Prague against Sparta and there it was like “Oh, so big players”. There are not many hits, because the ice is big. Our experience so far has been great.
Regarding the lockout, do you have some latest information?
It seems pretty quite. I have seen they were negotiating for the last of couple days for 10-12 hours. Hopefully it is positive thing. We obviously want to end soon. As players, we will fight for our rights. Got the deal what´s will be most fair. I think Fehrs are doing great job representing the players. Hopefully we come back to the ice soon.
How do you spend your time here? It is very small city, when you compare it to the USA.
We just came back from Prague yesterday. The couple of days off. My fiancée is here, so we were down to Prague, took couple of dinners, some shopping, sightseeing, seeing a castle. Walk around. It is beautiful city.
Can you comment your salary here?
We are playing here for the insurance and something for a little bit of spending. I am not going to say exact amount, but it is not that much like in the NHL. We are not here for playing for money. We are for playing hockey. That’s our focus.
Back in the NHL, what are your memories on the Avalanche?
I played there most of my career. My biggest memory is being groomsman in the David Jones line, I was my and Paul Stastny. I have a lot good friends there. I bought my first house there, I still own that. My first NHL game there, my first NHL goal… Definitely a lot of positives memories.
What was your best game as the Av?
Game one against San Jose in the playoffs. Sold out, 21 000 fans. We came out; shot them, scored the goal 50 second left, my first ever in the playoffs.
What was the reason why management traded you to St. Louis Blues?
I am really not sure. There was 20-game losing streak. They traded Craig Anderson. Who thought they would trade Andy? Maybe the reason is e had such great year before… They traded me and Shattenkirk. They got Erik Johnson, who is the former first overall draft pick. We obviously needed some help in the defense and they needed a change. They made decision. It is part of business. Obviously I thanked them for the opportunity to play in the NHL.
There were some rumors you could come back to the Avalanche. Did the management contact you?
No, just rumors. I definitely have not heard that. None can predict the future.
Finally, do you think the fight against Brodziak had some impact on your career?
Yeah, I broke my hand in some places. But that´s the play I am. I was defending my teammate. I missed 22 games, came back, I was playing probably with my 60% fractured hand.
Chris Stewart was born as the second of seven children to Canadian mother and a Jamaican immigrant in 1987. His way to the professional hockey was hard and long due financial issues of the family and the fact he has never been drafted. In spite of that, he successfully made his debut in the AHL in 2007 for the team Albany River Rats. For the following season, the Rats have moved to Cleveland and get new name Lake Erie Monsters, which is the affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.
Stewart was called up to the Avalanche in December 2008 and made his debut later in that night. He earned the Gordie How Hattrick one month later. At the end of his rookie season, he had 19 points from 53 games in the stats. The next season, 2009/10, was nothing but breakout for Stewart. He scored his first NHL hattrick and added one more point in the same game. He also gained another Gordie Howe Hattrick and with 28 goals he was the scoring leader of the Avs. He was on the second place with 64 points amongst the teammates. The Avalanche made their road to the playoffs and was eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the first round. Stewart scored the game winning goal of Game 1 just 50 seconds left to the game.
Stewart was continuing in the perfect shape in the following season and scored his second NHL hattrick. He was injured in the fight against Kyle Brodziak in November 2010. He missed several weeks of the action. From this point, his career has slowed down. The result of the situation was his trade to St. Louis Blues in February 2011. His contract with the Blues will expire at the end of this season. His older Brother Anthony plays for the Carolina Hurricanes.Complete photo gallery of the practice of the HC Liberec and more Stewart´s photos could be found here.
David Puchovsky, Slovakia, email@example.com
16/11/2012 - 13:41