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02-05-2012, 05:01 PM
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With several teams in my division relying on highly skilled but potentially injury-prone superstars on their teams, perhaps it's time for the Swamp Devils to add the Scott Stevens of his day.

This should definitely add some color when we play MB's team and Milt Schmidt, as well.

Black Jack Stewart, D


1. There is a good argument that his 1942-43 season is the best season by an available defenseman.

Prior to 1942-43, Black Jack Stewart had received a handful of All-Star votes on a few occasions, but in 1942-43 at the age of 25, he emerged as a star. He dominated All-Star voting during the regular season:

Originally Posted by overpass
Total first-team voting points: Jack Stewart 20, Earl Seibert 12, Flash Hollett 9, Jack Crawford 7, Babe Pratt 3, Dit Clapper 1
He then went on to win the Stanley Cup as Detroit's #1 defenseman.

2. Stewart is the only defenseman to be an All Star both before and after the Red Line was introduced.

Stewart was unable to build off his spectacular 1942-43 season because he left the NHL to serve for two years during World War 2. Stewart returned in 1945-46 and had to adjust to a different style of game: The addition of the Red Line and the new ability of teams to pass forward between zones completely changed the way a defenseman would defend the transitions game. In Stewart's first season back, he was a 2nd Team All Star, and finished 5th in Hart voting (first among all defensemen).

3. Consistently an elite player in his prime

Stewart finished top 5 in All-Star voting every season he played from the ages of 25-32 before retiring due to injuries:

1942-43: 1st in All-Star voting
1943-44: Lost season to World War 2
1944-45: Lost season to World War 2
1945-46: 4th in All Star voting
1946-47: 3rd in All Star voting
1947-48: 2nd in All Star voting
1948-49: 2nd in All Star voting
1949-50: 5th in All Star voting

1949-50 would be Stewart's last full year of hockey and last season in Detroit. He ended his tenure in Detroit by winning his second Cup, this time as the hard-hitting stay at home partner to a young player named Red Kelly. He was 32 years old. He would have two injury-filled seasons in Chicago afterwards before calling it quits for good.

When he retired for the first time in 1951, the Edmonton Journal wrote:
His retirement would mark the end of one of the longest and most valuable careers in N.H.L. history.
4. Style of Play

Wikipedia has a good article on Black Jack Stewart, with a well-sourced description of his playing style:

During his career, Stewart was regarded as one of the hardest bodycheckers in the National Hockey League.[2] He was also carried the heaviest stick in the league, explaining that "I don't use it for scoring. I use it for breaking arms".[5] Stewart was known for his large grin when hitting opponents; teammate Ted Lindsay noted "when he had that smile, it was time for the opposition to look out".[10] He led the league with 73 penalty minutes in 1945–46 ,[5] and in the late 1940s, his rivalry with Milt Schmidt of the Boston Bruins was so intense that their physical interactions occasionally overshadowed the games themselves.[2]

Stewart hated his nickname of "Black Jack", believing it implied he was a dirty player. Hockey Hall of Fame defenceman King Clancy agreed he was not a dirty, but stated he was the "roughest son of a gun you'd ever want to meet."[9] His style of play resulted in numerous injuries; Stewart had dozens of scars and required over 200 stitches to close various cuts during his career. One year saw him play the entire season with a broken hand.[9]

Stewart showed good judgment as a defenceman, rarely taking himself out of position to throw a hit.[2] His coach in Detroit, Xxx, called Stewart "one of the best blueliners in the game",[2] and claimed he was the best defenceman in Red Wings history.[21] He was regarded as a good skater, able to clear the puck out of his zone and who rarely turned it over to the other team.[21]
Stewart explained how he got his nickname:

Originally Posted by Jack Stewart
I bodychecked some fellow one night and when he woke up the next day in the hospital he asked who'd hit him with a blackjack
5. Newspaper articles

The following was originally posted by overpass:

Calgary Herald, Jan 23, 1943:
Jack Stewart called Greatest N.H.L. Defender

Today Stewart ranks as one of the National League's most accomplished rearguards.

If you don't think so Manager Jack Adams will do his best to dispel all doubts.

"He's a manager's dream," Adams told reporters not long ago. "He's a very deceptive skater. He packs a terrific shot. He's an uncanny judge of a forward's play. He's one of the greatest of the game."

In fact, said Adams, summing up, he's the greatest defenceman in the game today.

There may be some mild rebuttals. Earl Seibert of Chicago Black Hawks, for instance, would be accorded high rating defensively by an impartial tribunal. Offensively, the Chicago star ranks second only to Walter (Babe) Pratt of Toronto Maple Leafs.

Seibert's value was sharply stressed early in December when an injury forced him to the sidelines. Bert Gardiner led all N.H.L. goalies at the time, but before Seibert returned the Chicago netminder was displaced by Johnny Mowers of Detroit. Without Seibert, the Chicago defence collapsed.
After seeing the quote above, I wondered if Stewart beat out Seibert in all-star voting in part because he played more games. But both played 44 of 50 regular season games, so that wasn't a factor.

A couple of articles from when Stewart retired:

Edmonton Journal, Jan 3, 1951:
His retirement would mark the end of one of the longest and most valuable careers in N.H.L. history.

After 1 1/2 years with Pittsburgh in the American Hockey League, he went to Detroit, providing a tower of strength behind the blueline until last fall.

He was regarded as the policeman of the Wings and the avenger of wrongs done to younger or smaller teammates.

Away-from-home crowds loved to see the big watchdog shunted to the penalty box.

Never a prolific scorer, Stewart notched 30 goals in his league play with Detroit. His occasional scoring rush usually came at a crucial time. He bagged five in nine years of playoffs.
Detroit fans loved the big Manitoban.

He is a member of Detroit's hockey Hall of Fame and was five times a member of one of the All-Star squads. He was the first defence player in N.H.L. history to win All-Star rating under the changed rules, both before and after the advent of the centre red line.
Dink Carroll - Montreal Gazette, Jan 4, 1951
Black Jack was a good thing while he lasted and he lasted fairly long in a league where life is short. He was the best blue line belter in the history of the Detroit Red Wings, according to Jack Adams, over the nine seasons he played for them.

For a fellow who could hit such a terrific bodycheck he wasn't very big; his best playing weight was 185 pounds. But he was all bone and muscle. Jack Adams, to whom superlatives come so readily, called him "one of the strongest guys I have ever seen in a hockey uniform." He owns a wheat farm near Pilot Mound, Man., lives outdoors most of the time and is used to hard manual work, which probably accounts for his fine physique.
It's amazing how little material there is in the files on him. That's because he is so quiet and unobtrusive off the ice.
One of his distinctions is that he is the most stitched-up of modern hockey players. Among the souvenirs he will carry away from the N.H.L. are the 201 stitches required to close the 48 wounds in his physiognomy.

But Black Jack could play hockey. He was a good blocking defenceman, could clear the puck out of his own defence zone, rarely made a bad pass and he could skate faster than most spectators realized. He was a good ice general and was respected all around the league. He put plenty of gimp in that weak Chicago defence and pepped up the whole team. It was noticeable when he appeared here early in the season with the Black Hawks that their forwards were checking back, but they returned to their old careless methods the minute he was out of there.

Those percentage-minded fellows who make the odds paid him an unconscious tribute these last few days. Last week Detroit was 8-to-5 to win the Stanley Cup; Toronto 12-to-5, Rangers 8-to-1, Canadiens and Chicago 10-to-1, and BOston 12-to-1. When it became known that Stewart was all through as a hockey player the odds on the Black Hawks went to 15-to-1.
As with other star defencemen of his day and earlier, his qualities as an "ice general" were important. Rod Langway might be a modern player who would be considered an "ice general".

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