It wasn't his last. Stewart took over as the general manager and coach of the Ontario Hockey League's Barrie Colts, a junior club, last summer and has generated headlines for more than the Colts' outstanding 43-19-6 regular-season record. On two occasions early in the season Stewart hid 17-year-old Ukrainian defenseman Vladimir Chernenko in the luggage compartment of the Barrie team bus and smuggled him over the border for games in the U.S. Chernenko, who speaks little English and who reportedly offered no resistance to stowing away, lacked the requisite visa to play in the U.S. What makes Stewart's tactics stranger is that Chernenko was a little-used blueliner who subsequently was traded. "It was an error on my part," says Stewart, who last month was fined $25,000 and stripped of his general managership.
In January Stewart also publicly clashed with the league administrators over a pair of trades at the OHL's deadline. Two deals he made were scotched when OHL executives said they didn't receive the paperwork on time.
Despite those ill-advised acts, Stewart's winning ways make him a candidate to return to the NHL. "He's a gamble only because being an NHL coach involves more than winning. It involves being a public figure, getting along with management and a lot of other things," says Thrashers general manager Don Waddell. "But he showed real commitment by going to the OHL, and he wins."
At week's end Stewart had the Colts in the second round of the playoffs against the Sudbury Wolves, a series Barrie led 1-0. Says Colts right wing Michael Henrich, "That other stuff doesn't bother us. He has this way of talking that makes you believe what he says. There's no bull."
Fuhr's Delayed Exit
Flames Save, And It's a Beauty
In the ever-expanding NHL, teams have become expert at manipulating their rosters to guard against losing key players in expansion drafts. In the case of Grant Fuhr's nonretirement retirement, the Flames have come up with one of the craftiest moves yet.
Fuhr, Calgary's 37-year-old goalie, missed much of this season with torn cartilage in his right knee. He went 5-13-2, and last month he said that retiring would be "the best thing for my body." It seems almost certain that Fuhr's 19-year NHL career has come to a close. Last week's announcement that the Flames have granted Fuhr a one-year contract extension (he'll be paid the $200,000 league minimum) simply signals that his official retirement announcement most likely will come after the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild raid teams' rosters on June 23. The existing clubs each must leave at least one goalie exposed in the draft. By signing Fuhr, Calgary can expose him, thus protecting their starting goaltender, Fred Brathwaite. and talented backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere. "The deal's good for me and good for the Flames," says Fuhr, who may work as Calgary's goaltending coach next year.
It's not so good for Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean and his Wild counterpart, Doug Risebrough, both of whom probably will follow the principle that has guided previous expansion teams and draft as many able goaltenders as possible. Odds are they won't find one in Calgary.