Ryan Stewart was part of the Crusaders organization for one season back in 1983. During his single season in Sherwood Park, Stewart posted 18 goals and 50 points, while helping his team to 28 wins – good for third in the North Division. In the first round of the playoffs, the Cru took on the St Albert Saints (now known as the Spruce Grove Saints). Stewart and the Crusaders battled hard, pushing the series to seven games, but couldn’t make it past one of their biggest rivals.
Stewart was a Kelowna native and following his season with the Crusaders, he moved back to his home province to play for the Kamloops Junior Oilers. He was joining a team on the brink of success; over the past two seasons the Junior Oilers had made it to the Conference Finals twice, but couldn’t get over the hump. The following season, Stewart helped his team make it to the WHL finals after posting a point-per-game season (69 points in 69 games). Kamloops took on the Regina Pats and defeated them 4-3, moving onto the Memorial Cup. Unfortunately for the former Crusaders forward, the team couldn’t compete against the best and finished third.
In the 1985 season, the Kamloops Junior Oilers changed their name to the Kamloops Blazers, the team we all know today. The name may have changed, but Stewart’s on-ice dominance did not. His second season in Kamloops saw his scoring hit a career high despite playing in a career-low in games. In only 54 games played, Stewart posted 33 goals and 70 points whilst guiding his team back to the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Stewart and the Blazers disappointedly fell in the final against the Prince Albert Raiders, the eventual winners of the Memorial Cup.
Stewart’s disappointment of losing the cup was soon turned into elation at the NHL draft. The 1985 NHL was the beginning of a few great NHL careers, and with the 18th overall pick, the Winnipeg Jets selected Ryan Stewart from the Kamloops Blazers.
After being drafted, the now Winnipeg Jet spent the majority of the season in the WHL. However, Stewart did play three games for the Jets, scoring a single goal. When he wasn’t with the Jets, Stewart went back to the Blazers until he was traded 10 games into the season to the Prince Albert Raiders. Even with the change of scenery, the 18th overall pick still dominated the WHL beating his career high scoring 96 points. The dream of making back the Memorial Cup, and the third straight Ed Chynoweth Final, was ended in the second round for Stewart. His Raiders couldn’t make it past the Saskatoon Blades.
After spending one season with the Raiders, Stewart moved onto the Brandon Wheat Kings and Portland Winterhawks before turning pro in 1988.
Stewart’s first professional team were the Moncton Hawks, the affiliate team for the Winnipeg Jets. He spent two seasons in the AHL, one with Moncton and the other with Maine, scoring 24 points over that time span.
After his time in the AHL ended, Stewart found a new home with the Swindon Wildcats in England. He again found his form with the Wildcats scoring 144 points in his first season. The former 18th overall pick continued to run the show in his second year with 128 points.
In 1993, Stewart retired from playing hockey and moved behind the bench as an assistant coach of the Merritt Centennials of the BCJHL, eventually becoming the head coach. After three years with the organization, Stewart took his coaching career to the next level and coached the Kelowna Rockets for a season. The former Crusader also spent time with the Everett Silvertips as a scout back in 2013.
Although his career in the NHL didn’t go as planned, Stewart had a rewarding hockey career being drafted into the NHL, winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup, and competing in the Memorial Cup.
He demonstrated that success is not found solely in the big leagues.