Flyers Stewart to make EIHL history as import with most appearances

Danny Stewart, pictured in action for Fife Flyers against Dundee Stars on Saturday. Pic: Steve Gunn
Danny Stewart, pictured in action for Fife Flyers against Dundee Stars on Saturday. Pic: Steve Gunn

Fife Flyers associate player-coach Danny Stewart will make Elite League history this weekend when he takes to the ice at the Silverblades Ice Rink in Altrincham.

After equalling the record for most EIHL appearances by an import last weekend, Saturday’s trip to Manchester Storm will see Stewart set a new league record of 563 games.

The Canadian admits that he has found it hard to reflect on his own personal milestone amid Flyers current poor run of form, but it is sure to be a proud moment for the 36-year-old forward.

“If I’m being honest, it’s really irrelevant to me right now with the way we’re playing, and the way we’re losing hockey games,” Stewart told the Press.

“The focus right now is to win hockey games.

“I knew about the record last year when the 500th game came up, which I wasn’t even aware of until the statisticians sent me an email, I just didn’t realise it was coming this soon.

“The record itself is one thing, but I’m just fortunate to have been involved in the game this long.”

Stewart will displace previous record holder Gerad Adams, who iced 562 times, mostly for Cardiff Devils, before retiring in 2014.

“We played against each other for many years and there’s probably a mutual respect there, but whether or not we liked each other, that’s a different story!” Stewart said.

“He was another guy that was a competitor, and to have that longevity he did, with the style of play he had, is even more amazing.”

Stewart was first tempted to the UK by Coventry Blaze in the summer of 2006 and he recalls his first appearance against Newcastle Vipers as being a rough introduction to the EIHL.

“They had Jeremy Cornish, Andre Payette, Jason Robinson, Paul Ferone, and Brantt Myhres - five 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.

“It was a good run in Coventry and I’m glad I made the decision when I did.”

Some might say that little has changed over 500-odd appearances but Stewart admits that he is not quite the agitator he used to be.

“I don’t think I’m even scratching the surface of what I used to be,” he said.

“At this time, I’ve got a little bit more on my plate, and due to specific injuries, I can’t back things up as well as I used to.

“I don’t think I say as much or do as much, but that’s not going to bring down my compete levels.

“The big guys don’t like a little guy finishing hits and being rugged out on the ice, so I’m still going to annoy guys every once in a while.”

It will come as no surprise that Stewart regards the main highlight of his EIHL career as the three league titles he won in Coventry, but he has also enjoyed fond moments in Kirkcaldy.

“Seeing the local guys progress has been a highlight,” he said. “The organisation has made it clear they want to go with local talent, and that’s something that us coaches have to buy into to.

“These guys are the best we have in town right now and we’ve seen them progress. It’s not an easy job that they do.

“Our play-off form has also been a highlight. We’ve always played our best hockey in the time I’ve been in Fife in play-offs so here’s hoping we can find that consistency through the regular season.”

At 36 Stewart is still going strong in the Elite League - he has nine points from 14 games so far - but he admits his form has been up and down during his time in Fife.

“Last year was probably the worst of my career on a personal level,” he said.

“I just didn’t contribute the way I’d hoped. It was always going to be tough for me playing on the third line, and with selected powerplay time, you’re never going to put up big numbers.

“But so far this year I’ve felt good out there, and although our record doesn’t show it, playing consistently with good players has helped, and there’s more to come.”

So can we expect Danny to keep going into another season, and a potential 600th EIHL game?

“I’m just taking it one year, and one game at at time,” he said. “Individual records have never been important to me.

“I’m just fortunate to have been involved this long, met some great people, and learned a lot of great things along the way.

“The main priorty for me right now is getting this team back on the winning track.”