Danny Stewart has announced his retirement from playing pro hockey.
Fife Flyers’ associate coach confirmed immediately after the third-fourth place play-off match against Cardiff Devils that he was hanging up his skates. It marks the end of an outstanding UK career which spanned ten years.
“I made the decision about a month ago that it would be my last season playing,’’ he said.
“It’s not something I’ve been overly public about - I’m not interested in being in the limelight - but it’s a decision that is 100 per cent.
“My body has just endured too much in the last few years. My style of play possibly caught up to me, at my size.
“This season in particular was very difficult. There’s been several injuries that I’ve battled through and it’s left me in rough shape. We’ll see what the repercussions of that will be this summer.’’
Stewart admitted becoming a father has re-shaped his priorities.
“I’ve got to start thinking about my long term future. I’m a family man now so it makes me consider things a bit more differently now.’’
While the decision to stop playing was one Stewart felt he made to make, he admitted that it was not an easy one.
“Hockey is all I’ve ever known,” he said. “I went back and forth for a while over Christmas onwards, and had many talks with my fiancee Harriet, but what pushed me over the edge was how I felt day to day.
“When you’re down changing the baby and you’re struggling to get off the floor. Waking up every day with some pain and you’re not comfortable in your own body ... it was a decision that had to be made.”
Stewart first came to the UK in 2006 to ice with Coventry Blaze where he spent four years before joining Newcastle Vipers for one season and then on to Fife Flyers to help Todd Dutiaume launch a brand new EIHL club.
Their partnership has endured for five seasons and taken the club to two play-off finals weekends.
On the ice he was feisty, fearless and led the line, going head to head with the biggest and toughest the league threw his way.
He played through injury, he soaked up ice time and he never backed down - he was, in the words of one fan, a warrior.
He bowed out with no pre-game announcement or fanfare - but fans immediately took to social media to post their own tributes.
Stewart was born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, and iced with the Fort Wayne Komets and Danbury Thrashers in the UHL before moving to the UK where he went on to play more games in the EIHL than any import.
That landmark came in a game in Altrincham in Manchester in October - his 563rd appearance. His first ever EIHL game was against Newcastle Vipers in 2006, and, in an interview with the FFP he recalled those rollicking early days.
“They had Jeremy Cornish, Andre Payette, Jason Robinson, and Paul Ferone - all legitimate heavyweight fighters,” he said. ‘‘I was full of piss and vinegar at that time and was running around a little bit. I got grabbed a couple of times and was told it would be a long year for me.
“I didn’t bat an eye and, needless to say, I had a few run-ins with those guys. They were a tough team. From that point on guys knew that they would need to have my back every once in a while because I was going to cause some skirmishes.’’
Stewart will now look to focus solely on his coaching career, but it remains to be seen whether he continues to work in Fife alongside Todd Dutiaume.
“Coaching is something I definitely want to pursue even more so now that I’m done playing.
“Where it’s going to be I’m not sure yet. We’ve got some meetings coming up this week where we’ll discuss possible outcomes, whether it’s in Fife, or whether I need to start looking elsewhere.”