Jake Stewart flies under the radar. That’s hard to say about a 6”2 200 pound center, but it’s true.
The Antigonish, Nova Scotia product is entering his third season with the Moncton Wildcats and only his teammates and coaching staff fully comprehend and appreciate the impact he has on the hockey club.
Stewart’s numbers aren’t flashy, they certainly don’t jump off the page, but it’s what the rangy underrated center brings to the room and ice that truly makes him unique.
Every time the 18-year-old steps on the ice you know exactly what you are going to get. A relentless effort and an unwavering willingness to do all the little things it takes to win hockey games.
Jake Stewart is a heart and soul player, an unsung hero and a team first guy.
Flying under the radar is really nothing new for Jake Stewart, he’s been that type of player and person his entire life.
An Uplifting Journey
Jake Stewart doesn’t want the attention, the press or all the accolades he just simply wants to play the game he loves and do whatever it takes to help his team to win. In this day and age that’s a rare combination, but one that was entrenched within the very fabric of his character from the moment he was on the blades.
Stewart’s earliest recollection of the game is similar to other young Maritimers, but his journey was extra special because it was all about family.
“My earliest memories of hockey would probably be going to family skates when I was around five years old and having my dad there holding me up and helping me skate,” Stewart said proudly.
“My dad taught me the game and he was also the one who had the biggest impact on me when hockey first started getting competitive,” admitted Stewart.
“He made it fun, but also made a point that the ultimate goal was to win and to do everything to win.”
“Whatever it takes to win,” that certainly captures Jake Stewart’s personality and identity as a player.
The impact and sacrifices his parents and family have had on his journey to the QMJHL isn’t lost on the humble quiet 18-year-old.
“My parents have sacrificed so much for me to get to this point in my career. From driving me to early morning practice or spending insane amounts of money on skates and gear.”
“All the advice and late night conversations after a loss are lessons I’ll never forget. There’s no question I’d be no where near where I am today without the sacrifices they made.”
Whether it was being held up by his dad when he first learned to skate or uplifting his teammates as a quiet leader on the Wildcats, Jake Stewart continues to carry the invaluable lessons he learned from his early days in the game with him today.
The Value of Hard Work
If there’s one thing that Jake Stewart learned a long the way in the game of hockey is the value of hard work. Stewart approaches every shift and every game like it’s his last. You can win a lot of hockey games with that type of player and person in your line up. “Hard work was something that was always expected from me growing up.”
“I don’t really remember being taught it, but I do remember always being pushed to be going at 100% by my dad,” stressed Stewart.
“My older brother Josh was also always a hard worker, he pushed me no matter if it was hockey or school.”
The shy confident center definitely embraces his role as an energy player and leader with the Cats.
“Being considered a good leader means a lot to me.”
“I always found myself in leadership roles as I was growing up and it’s something that I think is very important especially in a team sport like hockey.”
“Josh was probably the one who taught me how to lead the most,” confessed Stewart.
“I’ve also had some great captains throughout the years who I’ve always watched and took what I could from them.”
Nevertheless, nothing can really compare to an older brother’s influence and impact.
“I always looked up to Josh, he was a captain growing up as well. He always wanted to lead by example and hard work, I took a lot from that.”
Putting in the Extra Work
Players talk about putting in the extra work all the time during the offseason, but when Jake Stewart says it, it’s different.
For the last three summers Stewart has put in an extraordinary amount of work on his skating.
When the former TELUS Cup Champion first entered the QMJHL the knock on the hard working power forward was his skating.
Critics never questioned his heart or work ethic; they did however question his ability to skate at that the Q level especially at the wing position.
Stewart and his agent Bryan Dube sought out the services of well-known power skating coach Jill Plandowski.
“Jake has been in for the past couple of off seasons, but this year I saw a big improvement in his balance, posture and overall edge control,” explained Plandowski.
“Skating is so important in today’s game and Jake knows that this is an area that he wants to improve on and is willing to put in the work.”
“This off season I started working with Jake at his agency camp in June, and then in July he made the commitment to stay in Halifax to train at Pro Edge and skate with me daily at the Civic.”
“Going to Jill has been a huge help for me,” confessed Stewart.
“Being a bigger guy my legs have always been really long and skating started to become a struggle as the speed of the game started taking huge leaps from Midget to the Q.”
“Spending that time with Jill in the summer has taught me a lot of the technical side to skating and has definitely made my skating better,” explained Stewart.
“My skating isn’t perfect, but is probably the part of hockey I’ve seen myself improve the most in since I was drafted and I have her to thank for that.”
“You can tell that Jake just loves the game, he’s an awesome kid,” said Plandowski.
“He’s one of the first guys to arrive at the rink and is always up for whatever we are working on with a positive attitude.”
Plandowski was quick to share a personal story from this past summer about one of her hardest working students.
“It was the middle of July and after a busy week of ice, I made the trip to Antigonish to watch my son’s Hockey Nova Scotia High Performance tryouts. I’m watching the game and look over and who do I see, but Jake working the time clock.”
“Come to find out, he had worked eight hours that day. Not many teenagers would be so willing to work the timekeepers box on one of their only off days, but Jake was quick to give me a big wave and update on my son’s game, you could tell he was happy to be there,” said Plandowski proudly.
Longtime friend and teammate Jacob Hudson knows first hand what Jake Stewart can bring to a team.
“Jake’s a competitor that is always challenging himself by competing with his surroundings,” said Hudson.
“Jake’s work ethic is what separates him from the rest.”
“We have played together since we started the game, I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Hard working and always willing to lead and give back to the game, that’s Jake Stewart.
So what’s next for Jake Stewart and what’s his ultimate goal in the game of hockey?
“My ultimate goal in the game is to make a living from hockey.”
“It’s a sport I love, it gets me excited to get up every morning to workout or go to the rink.”
“Of course as I progress I want to play professionally, but university hockey is something that would be useful as well.”
“Most kids dreams in the game are to someday play in the NHL, I’m no different, but right now though I’m focused on winning and improving here in Moncton.”