Gaye Stewart

Gaye Stewart had an outstanding amateur career before he starred in the NHL. He led the TBJHL in goal-scoring in 1939-40 with 17 goals in 16 games, and then in 1940-41 had a whopping 31 goals in 16 games with the Toronto Marlboros to lead the OHA in scoring.

It was only a matter of time before he would play in the NHL. This big good-looking player made his debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs at age 19 in the 1942 Stanley Cup final series against Detroit. In the fourth game, Stewart replaced Hank Goldup and did so well that he was kept in the lineup for the remainder of the series which Toronto amazingly came back to win! The young boy was on a Cup winner after only three games in the NHL.

The following season, he got off to a great start and made a big hit with the fans because of his aggressive play. But that also led to some trouble. On November 7th, 1942, he got into a vicious stick-swinging duel that badly cut Jimmy Orlando of Detroit. He and Orlando both were given match penalties and $100 fines by NHL president Frank Calder. In addition, both received suspensions for their actions.

President Calder died of a heart attack on February 4th, 1943 and Red Dutton, who had been named acting president when Calder suffered his first heart attack, lifted the suspensions later. Stewart proceeded to score an impressive 24 goals in 48 games playing mostly on a line with Jack McLean and Bud Poile. Stewart, not fellow freshman Maurice Richard, would be honored with the Calder Trophy, rewarded to the rookie of the year. But his fantastic season came to an end early in the 1943 playoffs. He hurt his knee and did not play in the final two games when the Leafs were eliminated.

After a two-year stint in the Army in World War II, Stewart returned to play for Toronto in 1945-46 and was the best player on a disorganized team. Although Toronto had won the Stanley Cup in 1944-45, the Leafs failed to make the playoffs in 1945-46. This was not the fault of Stewart who led the NHL with 37 goals in the 50 game schedule. That was downright wonderful goal total when you consider only Max Bentley was the other 30 goal man in the NHL that season with 31. Stewart made the first all-star team this year.

In 1946-47, he helped the Leafs return as Stanley Cup champions, performing on a line with Gus Bodnar and Bud Poile. He started the 1947-48 season with Toronto but was involved in a big trade with Chicago. The entire Bodnar-Stewart-Poile line, along with Ernie Dickens were traded to Chicago in exchange for Max Bentley and Cy Thomas.

While the Leafs were the best team in hockey, the Hawks were their polar opposites. Despite playing for the cellar-dwellers, Stewart had a fine year with 27 goals and made the second all-star team despite the Blackhawks last place finish.

Chicago moved up a notch the next season and Stewart was playing well until early January when he was struck in the head with a flying puck. He suffered a severe concussion and was hospitalized. This and minor injuries kept him out for six games.

He had his last 20+ goal year in 1949-50 with 24, but the Blackhawks finished last again. After 1949-50, Stewart was involved in a mass deal with Detroit and he didn't get as much ice time because of the depth the Red Wings possessed. The 'Production Line' of Abel, Howe and Lindsay more than held their share of the scoring and Stewart was traded to the New York Rangers after 1950-51 for Tony Leswick.

He became more of a playmaker with the Broadway Blueshirts and scored 15 goals and had 25 assists for 40 points. He started badly in 1952-53 and was put on waivers. The Montreal Canadiens picked him up, but Stewart was finished and was sent down to the Quebec Aces of the Quebec Senior League.

He then played for the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL, scoring 42 goals and 95 points in 1953-54. The Canadiens brought him up for three Stanley Cup playoff games, but he did little. After a bad year with Buffalo in 1954-55, Gaye decided to retire.

He was a fine stickhandler, aggressive but clean in his play and perhaps the best skater of his day. After his playing days, he became a linesman in the NHL.

Interestingly, Gaye Stewart had twice won the Stanley Cup, on both occasions, his name was engraved incorrectly. In 1941-42, the spelling read 'GAYE STEWARD.' In 1946-47, it was 'GAVE STEWART.'


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