Chuck Fletcher is big on team orientation. The general manager likes it for his roster and just as much within his hockey operations staff.
The Flyers are keeping an experienced former player and team-oriented person in their organization by adding Chris Stewart to the club's staff as a player development coach.
Stewart, a winger who signed with the Flyers last October and played 16 regular-season games for the club this season, announced his retirement on Sunday. The 2006 first-round pick played 11 career seasons in the NHL, compiling 668 games and 322 points (160 goals, 162 assists) between seven teams.
“I’ve had my time, I’ve played 13 years professionally; the decision was easy," Stewart said Monday in a video interview. "I didn’t want to take any opportunities away from guys who are kicking and clawing to start their career and trying to build.
"I always had aspirations of staying involved in hockey once I did decide to retire. With a prestigious organization like the Flyers and having my relationship with the management there over my career, I think it’s going to be a great fit.”
Stewart, who turns 33 years old in October, is regarded highly by Flyers players, coaches and management. Stewart has ties to Fletcher from their days in Minnesota as he played parts of three seasons for the Wild from 2014 to 2018.
"Just to live in the environment that he’s created for the players and the families has always been first class and always felt like a family atmosphere," Stewart said. "I was offered the position and no better learning under a guy who has signed me twice, he's waived me twice and he's traded for me once. I think he’s an elite stature to learn under."
In his time with the Flyers this season, Stewart was a positive influence on his teammates, both on and off the ice. His experience, positivity and hard work were particularly impactful on 22-year-old Nolan Patrick, who missed the season as he battled a migraine disorder.
Stewart's own development and path as a player make him a natural fit for a player development role. Similarly, Nick Schultz was hired by the club in June 2019 as a player development coach.
Stewart, who is also a part of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, will work with Flyers prospects at different levels.
"Having a personal rapport and building that relationship, having someone they can trust, who has played the game and retired recently and has stepped into a role," Stewart said. "I think a guy like me, at 15 years old, I was a walk-on to the OHL. Two years later, I was a first-round draft pick to the NHL and went on to play 668 games. I’ve been a first-line player, I’ve been relied on to contribute nightly. Over the later parts of my career, I kind of transitioned into a role player. I don’t think there has been anything that I haven’t seen in the NHL as far as being traded, being waived, I’ve played in Europe, I’ve kind of seen it all and done it all and lived it firsthand. I think having that respect for the players and earning that respect is going to go a long way."