Bill Stewart

Though most fans won't remember him, Bill Stewart had a very long professional hockey career.

Stewart was a well travelled junior player who earned a reputation as a rough and tumble defender with good puck skills. Though considered a bit of a diamond in the rough, the Sabres drafted him 68th overall in the 1977 NHL Entry Draft. They were hoping he could one day develop into the prototypical Sabres defenseman of that era - big and strong but capable of doing more with the puck than just banging it off of the glass, much like King Kong Korab or Lee Fogolin or Jim Schoenfeld.

The Sabres were introducing several new blue liners to the team in 1978-79. Larry Playfair joined Stewart as inexperienced rearguards. Stewart, who appeared with the Sabres in the previous season's playoffs, put in a yeoman's effort. He appeared in 67 games, and worried only about defense. He would score 18 points, including his first NHL goal.

Despite having a full NHL season under his belt, Stewart was sent back to the minors the following season, and would never again play for the Sabres. By 1980-81 he was with the St. Louis Blues organization. That season he enjoyed his best NHL season, scoring 2 goals and 23 points in 60 games, and posting an impressive +19 defensive rating. However he would find himself back in the minors the following season.

1983-84 was another new start for Stewart. He turned down an offer to play for a team in Switzerland to joined his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Stewart put in a another nice effort as the 5th or 6th defenseman with the Leafs that year. Injuries hampered him the following year, and he found himself back in the minor leagues.

Stewart signed with the Minnesota North Stars for the 1985-86 season, but aside from 8 games spent the entire year in the minor leagues.

In the summer of 1986 Stewart made a drastic change in his hockey career. Perhaps tired of the uncertainties of the NHL and busses of the minor leagues, Stewart took a job offer with a club team in Italy. Though not known for their hockey, Stewart fell in love with Italy and would spend 9 years playing there. He evened gained Italian citizenship and represented the country at the 1992 and 1993 World Championships and the 1992 and 1994 Olympic games.

Stewart has since returned to North America and pursued a coaching career. He had a great deal of success in the minor leagues and juniors. Unfortunately a questionable incident has sidelined his future North American coaching options. In the 1999-2000 season he was coaching the junior Barrie Colts. The team bus was about to cross the US border for games down in Michigan when he realized Ukrainian defenseman Vladimir Chernenko did not have his proper passport and paperwork to cross the border. Stewart had Chernenko hide in the baggage compartment hoping not to tie up the team at the border for a lengthy delay. Chernenko was discovered and Stewart took full responsibility for the incident. Stewart has since returned to Europe and has been coaching in Germany.


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