Story by Jeff Gard/jgsportsmedia.com
Port Hope’s Dan Stewart has been hired by the St. Louis Blues as their new Goalie Development Coach.
The NHL club made the announcement on Twitter (@StLouisBlues) Sunday evening, noting “Stewart has over 25 years of experience coaching goaltenders at all levels and will work with the Blues’ goalie prospects with the AHL’s Utica Comets and Springfield Thunderbirds.”
Stewart’s phone has been blowing up ever since with calls and texts while he also responds to Twitter messages.
“There’s been a lot of positivity coming through my phone right now,” Stewart said Monday from near Utica, New York. “It’s quite awesome.”
As noted in an interview in late November, Stewart’s coaching background includes working with goaltenders from the Northumberland Minor Hockey and West Northumberland Girls associations, Cobourg Cougars junior A club and the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks university men’s team.
Since 2016-2017, he was the goaltending coach for the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds, but leaves that position for what he considers to be a dream job.
“It’s a dream come true…something that I’ve coveted because I really enjoy the development side of the position and this allows me to work in the development role and do what I do,” Stewart said, adding his approach will remain consistent now working with NHL prospects. “I think it still comes down to creating a strong relationship with the individual goalie that you’re working with and making sure that they know you’re there for them and to help them be the best version of themselves both in net and off the ice. If you focus on that and then the fundamentals of the position and the goalie believes you are there for that purpose, that’s when things tend to go well.”
Stewart didn’t have many connections to the Blues organization prior to being hired, but he knows former development coach Dave Rogalski who is now the goaltending coach for the New Jersey Devils and former Soo Greyhounds coach Drew Bannister who is now the head coach of the Blues’ American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts.
With the Springfield Thunderbirds not operating this year, Bannister is an associate coach with the Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks affiliate) and their head coach Trent Cull as the two organizations have combined for this AHL season.
Stewart has been in Utica since March 1 and will stay there until mid-May. He expects to be home in Port Hope more often once the Thunderbirds return in Springfield.
At that time, “I will be doing more back-and-forth work as well as scouting,” he said.
Whether it’s on the ice now in Utica and eventually Springfield, in Sault Ste. Marie with the Greyhounds or back home in Cobourg and Port Hope with junior and minor hockey players, the feeling is always the same for Stewart.
“For me, being on the ice with the goalies is something that I cherish and there’s no feeling quite like it for me,” he said. “When you’re working with a goalie on something and there’s that moment where it transitions from them not quite getting it to getting it for the first time and that sense of joy that you both feel in that moment is really what I crave.”