Chris Stewart, who announced his retirement on Sunday, has been named a player development coach for the Flyers.
Stewart played for seven organizations in 11 NHL seasons, the last being the Flyers this past year.
Stewart was a first-round pick of Colorado in 2006. He had back-to-back 28-goal seasons in his second and third campaigns, and played for Canada’s World Cup team in 2011.
He was a checking fourth-liner by the time he came to the Flyers in the summer of 2019, reuniting with general manager Chuck Fletcher, who knew Stewart from their days in Minnesota. Stewart said being under Fletcher’s tutelage made this opportunity most appealing.
“The environment that he’s created for the players and the families has always been first class,” Stewart said. “It always felt like a family atmosphere. There’s no better learning than under a guy who’s signed me twice, waived me twice, and traded for me once. He’s an elite guy to learn from.”
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Stewart, who turns 33 on Oct. 30, earned a veterans-minimum contract out of training camp, and despite the limited playing time (16 games), was a popular veteran in the Flyers locker room in the first half of the season. He was waived on Jan. 15, and spent the remainder of the season with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
“Congrats on an amazing career,” Scott Laughton posted on Twitter. “One of the most upbeat, positive teammates I’ve had. Enjoy your family and time off, you deserve it!!!!”
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Stewart pointed to his time in Colorado with former NHL player Steve Konowalchuk, who held a similar player-development role, with helping to kick-start a career that lasted 668 games. He said he’ll be spending plenty of time on the road.
“I’ll be traveling, seeing some prospects,” Stewart said. “I’m going to Lehigh and help the guys coming through get acclimated to the pro game, and get their games where they can become” full-time NHL players.
“To all my teammates: the battles, the dressing-room banter, the dinners on the road, someone constantly complaining, the laughs!! Man, a lot of laughs. Those moments I’ll cherish forever!!”
Following his retirement announcement, Flyers fan Melissa Feeley Davis sent along a brief video clip capturing Stewart’s playful nature, which wasn’t easy this year given how often he was in and out of Alain Vigneault’s lineup.
“Congrats! And enjoy your retirement!” Davis wrote. “You made my kids' day by making silly faces at them during practice! They still talk about it!”
In June, Stewart was named as an executive board member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, where his experiences as a Black man in a predominantly white league will serve to grow the sport. He said the HDA is working on some initiatives that it hopes to roll out by the first of the year.
He’s not sure yet what his ultimate goal is, whether it’s head coaching or running a team managerially. When you respect the game and the people in it, he said, the possibilities are numerous.
“I’ve had my time. I’ve played 13 years professionally," said Stewart, who played six games this year for the Phantoms before the pandemic ended the season. “The decision was easy. I didn’t want to take any opportunities from guys who are continuing to [scratch and] claw to try to build their careers. It was an easy decision.”