Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stewart brothers to finally unite on ice

Blues' Chris and Carolina's Anthony to square off in NHL game for first time

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Chirping was in order for Anthony and Chris Stewart on Thursday.

When asked what will happen if one sees the other with the puck skating through the neutral zone and they are lined up, both replied with some nice brotherly love.

"I'll take his head off," Chris said jokingly, which prompted older brother Anthony to fire back, "(I'll knock) him on his ass. Quote unquote."

Game on, right boys?
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Chris Stewart (left) is all set to face his brother Anthony for the
first time Friday night.

"There's not going to be any lost feelings," Chris said. "It doesn't matter when it comes to gamedays. We've just got to play."

Anthony agreed.

"You're not going to try and hurt him or anything like that, but you've got a job to do and you finish your check," he said. "Me being the big brother, I've sort of got to tease him a bit, get him going, get under his skin a bit."

The Stewart brothers will square off for the first time in an NHL game today when the Chris's Blues (2-4) play host to Anthony's Carolina Hurricanes (3-2-2) at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

There were two previous opportunities when Anthony, 26, and Chris, 23, had the chance to square off, but on the first occasion, Anthony was a healthy scratch while a member of the Florida Panthers and Chris was with the Colorado Avalanche. Last season, Chris broke his hand in a fight with the Avs playing against Minnesota. The Avs played Anthony's Atlanta Thrashers the following game.

"The hockey gods didn't want us playing against each other," Anthony said. "... It's exciting to go out there and see some of the good things he's doing firsthand. The main thing is getting two points, but it's exciting nonetheless."

Chris Stewart has had the better success numbers-wise in his four seasons in the league with 69 career goals and 138 points in 198 games. Anthony has 20 goals and 53 points in 191 career games in his six seasons.

However, Chris will not shy away from talking about the biggest reason he is where he is today: his big brother.

It was Anthony Stewart, the oldest of Norman and Susan Stewart's seven children, that felt like he needed to push younger brother Chris to the ice and away from the gridiron, even though Chris excelled in football. It was Chris Stewart, who was a multi-talented athlete growing up that made a choice of walking away from the ice when he was 14 because of the hardships of his parents. Anthony guided his little brothers towards what turned out to be a career choice when Chris was just 16.
(Getty Images)
Carolina's Anthony Stewart, Chris Stewart's older brother,
will face his younger brother Chris and the Blues tonight. 

Anthony came home one day while playing for his Ontario Hockey League team, the Kingston Frontenacs, and gave his dad Norman a ride to go watch Chris in a pick-up game. When Anthony saw his 6-foot-2, 260-pound brother doing things that no ordinary players can do, it was time to take an initiative.

"He was a natural athlete," Anthony said of Chris. "He was just a little heavy and was playing football. He had a couple offers for collegiate football. But I watched a pickup game of his and he had really good hands and he was actually really fast.

"I just mentioned to him that if he got in shape, lose 20-30 pounds, he could get a tryout with Kingston. He actually did that, stayed true to his word and we got him a tryout and the rest is history."

It would have been difficult to predict that one Stewart brother, let alone two, would make it to the NHL. Their parents had a lot to do with it, considering Norman Stewart migrated from his native Jamaica in 1974 to Montreal in search of a better life.

Living in Scarborough, Ontario, in a particularly tough neighborhood, Norman Stewart introduced his sons to hockey. He didn't want his sons going down the wrong road.

Norman Stewart did find a better life, one that included a love for hockey.

"It's a big day for our family. They're going to be watching," Anthony said. "They're not going to make it in, but they're definitely excited and the buddies back home are texting us asking if we're going to fight. We'll be fighting on the scoresheet. That's probably about it."

The Stewart brothers are working on getting a visa for their father to get him into the United States, but for now, a couch and television set will have to do.

"If you know my dad, he's comfortable at home in front of a TV," Chris said. "It's going to feel good either way, but I'm sure he'd want to be here in person. We've got a rematch in Carolina later on in the year. Maybe he'll make it to that one.

"He loves the game. He watches every game. I'm sure he'll feel like a kid on Christmas watching tomorrow."

They've played together and faced each other in the minor leagues before, but when they step onto the Scottrade Center ice tonight, both can reflect back on where they came from and how they got to where they are.

It's not such a rarity for brothers to be playing in the NHL at the same time, but for the Stewart brothers, who are both first round picks (Anthony in 2003 and Chris in 2006), they'll cherish the moment when they finally step onto the big stage together for the first time.

"Being first rounders going in the draft and having that big day, it's definitely an accomplishment and we're definitely proud," Anthony said. "We're not taking it for granted."

Said Chris, "I'm excited. ... I felt like it's been a long time and a long time overdue. We went for dinner (Wednesday) night, and I'm sure we'll go for dinner again tonight. I look forward to tomorrow."

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