By Brian Compton
At this time last season, Ryan Stewart was the general manager of a Greenville Grrrowl squad that was gearing up for Kelly Cup Playoffs run.
Never in a million years did Stewart believe that only 365 days later, he’d been an assistant coach for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Due to the unfortunate demise of the Grrrowl last July, Stewart found himself without work. But thanks to Greenville’s affiliation with Chicago in recent years, Stewart was able to develop and maintain relationships with people who were able to lend a hand. Late last summer, Stewart was named the Blackhawks’ new video coach. A few weeks ago, head coach Denis Savard decided to increase Stewart’s role with the club, as he asked the latter to join him behind the bench.
Talk about the chance of a lifetime.
“I was excited,” Stewart said of his expanded role. “It’s a great opportunity and a great learning experience. It went from a really rough summer to a real exciting time for my family and I. From the summer until now, it seems like 10 years have passed. It’s been great.”
It was a tough summer for Stewart, who won a Kelly Cup championship as a player in Greenville and ended his career there in 2004 before moving into the front office. The Grrrowl won 45 games last season and finished with 93 points, but averaged just 3,443 fans per game at the BI-LO Center.
“Obviously, we had a successful year in Greenville and I had a lot of fun being the GM,” Stewart said. “It was unfortunate circumstances that the team folded, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions of what truly went on. They kind of left us hanging in the middle of the summer.”
It was a tough pill to swallow for Stewart and his family. For starters, his wife, Lindsay, is a Greenville native. Combine that with the number of people who either lost their jobs or their favorite hockey club, and it made a difficult situation for everyone involved.
“Obviously, I always wanted to move up to the next level, and we knew at some point we’d have to leave Greenville,” said Stewart, who appeared in just one American Hockey League game during his playing days. “That’s where we keep our residence. My wife is from there. I’m truly heartbroken for the community and the hockey fans of Greenville. There was a lot of community involvement over the last eight years in Greenville. A lot of people there are going to suffer.”