ICE hockey has not been kind to Danny Stewart over the past two years.
In 2010/11, his first season as a player-coach in Newcastle turned into a nightmare as the Vipers ran into financial problems, lost half their team, and then went bust.
Last summer, he moved to Kirkcaldy looking for a fresh start with the Elite League’s newest team, Fife Flyers, but it proved to be another testing season as the club struggled to compete, managing just eight wins from 54 games to finish rock bottom of table.
Despite all the trials and tribulations, Stewart has shown remarkable spirit, particularly in helping steer Flyers through recent tragedy, as he picked up the reins from coach Todd Dutiaume following the death of his wife. For that he deserves immense credit.
And Stewart – who hails from Alberta, Canada – insists the challenges he has faced, both on and off the ice, have only made him stronger.
“You learn a lot about yourself when you go through adversity and how you handle certain situations,” said the 33-year-old.
“This year has definitely made me, and I would imagine most of the guys, stronger people.
“I’m not going to lie. There have been times where I’ve sat in my place by myself and wondered why I’m still doing it.
“But then when you’re sitting in that dressing room and you’ve rallied against all the odds to win a hockey game, that reminds you why you play this game.
“At the end of the day, it’s a privilege. You’re playing the sport you love for a profession, and you can’t take that for granted.
“Especially with things that have happened here with Dutes – it puts it in perspective. There are definitely worse things in life than losing hockey games.
“I’m not saying I enjoy it, but I imagine there are better days ahead.”
Stewart will spend the next two weeks helping out at hockey camps in Sheffield and Ayr before returning to his homeland for the summer.
Whether he returns to Fife next season remains to be seen, but regardless, the versatile veteran expects a more successful second season in the EIHL.
“There’s a lot of potential in this place for a competitive team,” he stressed.
“There’s great support – you’re never going to have a problem with that – and an ownership that wants to see the team succeed.
“It’s a great place to play so there’s a lot of positives to look forward to in the future.”