Danny looking for another Blaze of glory in Fife

Danny Stewart, Fife Flyers
Danny Stewart, Fife Flyers

Danny Stewart has already lifted five trophies in the Elite League - now he is hungry to make it six at Fife Flyers.

The versatile Canadian moved to the UK in 2006 to sign for Coventry Blaze, where he won three EIHL championships, a Challenge Cup and Knock-out Cup in a hugely successful four-year spell.

After leaving the Blaze in 2010, Stewart stepped into coaching, spending a turbulent year in charge of Newcastle Vipers before the club mothballed the following summer.

Stewart then moved to Fife ahead of the club’s debut EIHL season in 2011 and over the past three years he has combined playing - both offence and defence - with coaching duties to help transform the Kirkcaldy side from also-rans to play-off semi-finalists.

Stewart recently agreed to return for a fourth term at Flyers, again taking on the role of associate coach alongside head coach Todd Dutiaume, and he believes the next step for the club is to win silverware.

“Whether it’s through the play-offs, the Challenge Cup or the league championship, we want to win a trophy,” Stewart told the Press.

“The Challenge Cup and play-offs are probably more attainable, because the numbers game makes winning the league very tough.

“I’m not ruling us out of anything but realistically it comes down to resources and certain teams can always run with a full strength line-up.

“However, there’s no reason why we can’t win silverware. By the end of last season we were challenging with the top teams in the league.

“There’s no reason why we can’t pick up where we left off if we do a good job in recruiting, and we retain a core of the guys we had.”

Flyers finished last season with a narrow 1-0 defeat to league champions Belfast Giants in the play-off semi-finals in Nottingham.

It came after a remarkable late run of form that saw Flyers claw back a nine-point deficit to qualify for the play-offs.

“The run we went on for the last two months right up until the end of the season made it fun to play hockey again,” Stewart said.

“We were just unfortunate against Belfast. We couldn’t have asked for any more from the guys - nothing went in for them on the day.

“It’s a season most of the guys will go away and remember, in particular that run towards the end and the way we did it.”

Flyers end of season form transformed a campaign that had been shaping up to be a major disappointment.

Stewart described the turnaround as the most satisfying experience of his coaching career.

“Things were so bad for so long it made it that much more special when we turned it around,” he said.

“The players take all the credit but the main thing we can take as coaches was not having a yard sale when people were demanding it.

“The guys took a lot of criticism and it was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had to see them come through that experience and turn the season into a success.”

Stewart described it as “absolutely neccessary” that Flyers manage to secure a core of last season’s team if they are to continue to progress.

“We tried our best to keep a core of players last year but things just didn’t work out,” he said.

“I’m confident that this summer we’ll see a good core back, but we’re also looking to make some changes.

“By the end of the year we were happy with everybody but at the end of day you can always get better and brings new blood and new life into a team.

“There’s a couple of areas where we’ll be looking to upgrade.”

Stewart will also look to play a key part on the ice next season after matching his highest ever EIHL goals tally (15) last term.

“After our second season in the EIHL, with the head injury and poor play after I came back, I was having doubts about my playing,” he said.

“But last season I felt personally that I had one of my strongest seasons in the EIHL.

“I enjoy the coaching side of things, and my long term goal is to be a head coach somewhere - I’ve always been open and public about that.

“If and when that opportunity comes - whether it happens in Fife or somewhere else - that will be the time to consider my playing career.

“For the moment, I’m delighted to back back in Fife for another season and excited about next season.”