Hockey seems to be a family affair with Anthony Stewart of the Atlanta Thrashers and Chris Stewart of the Colorado Avalanche.
Both brothers are slowly but surely starting to earn respect around the NHL.
Considered a poor addition to the Atlanta Thrashers by a number of critics on the blogosphere initially, Anthony Stewart is on track to have his best NHL campaign ever, having already scored eight goals this season. If he keeps at the same pace, he will score 20 goals this season.
Interestingly, Stewart’s brother Chris is the leading scorer on the Colorado Avalanche, having already tallied 11 goals and 14 assists in 23 games prior to injuring his wrist in a fight with Kyle Brodziak with the Minnesota Wild.
Before the injury he was pacing to produce 31 goals and 40 assists in 65 games.
The knock on Anthony Stewart was supposed to be his inability to make plays at the major league level, yet he has shown the ability to score goals and deliver body checks while contributing tenacious defense at his forward position.
Stewart along with the rest of his Thrashers teammates are playing well together, jelling as a team and producing wins and respect around the league. Some Colorado Avalanche followers were a bit surprised to see Chris Stewart maintain the team's top scorer status with the likes of Paul Statsny in the lineup.
The Stewart brothers had an interesting pathway to the major leagues.
Chris was the second of seven children born to Norman Stewart, an immigrant, and Sue, his Canadian-born mother. Chris and Anthony grew up poor but fell in love with hockey. Both skated with the North York Jr. Canadiens, and showed enough promise that their hockey fees were subsidized. Chris also played football, and seriously considered playing it throughout his high school years even though he loved hockey.
Chris Stewart walked away from hockey at the age of 16. He shifted his focus to football and track, and tried to earn a college scholarship rather than an Ontario Hockey League draft spot.
He felt the enormous financial pressure of playing hockey and decided that football was less expensive and less of a burden on his family’s limited resources. When Chris returned to the Frontenacs, he eventually made captain just as his brother had previously.
In 2004, his older brother Anthony was the captain of the Kingston Frontenacs. Sold on his brother’s ability as a player, he asked Frontenacs general manager Larry Mavety to give Chris the chance to try out for the team as an undrafted free agent.
Chris made the team in training camp, allowing for Chris and Anthony to play together. Chris initially fit in with the Frontenacs as a enforcer type player but took advantage of increased playing time to produce a solid rookie season with 30 points (18 goals and 12 assists) in 65 games.
Both Stewarts ultimately ended up on the ice and in the NHL. The pathways were different, but both have emerged as strong contributors this season.
Ironically, both Stewarts have also seen their teams beat preseason expectations.
The NHL will likely get to see more of the Stewarts as the season progresses. This time no one will be caught by surprise.