Enshrined in the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame back in 1996, Ralph Stewart is yet another Lakehead standout who shone brightly on the ice during the course of his playing career.
Joining the successful Fort William Canadiens juniors as a 15-year-old, Stewart’s knack for putting the puck in the net, and possessing a powerful shot put him in good stead with the organization.
Appearing in 61 regular season and playoff games from 1963-65, the strong-skating forward was part of a pair of Thunder Bay Junior Hockey League winning sides while scoring 26 times and doling out 29 assists along the way.
Picked up by the Port Arthur North Stars in the Memorial Cup playdowns in 1965 he tacked on four more tallies in as many outings.
Moving on the Montreal Jr. Canadiens after that, Stewart produced three solid campaigns, appearing in 164 combined contests with them where he picked up 39 markers while helping set-up 68 others for 107 points.
Turning pro in 1968, he had a six-game stint with the old Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks prior to heading to the Central Hockey League’s Houston Apollos where he produced 10 goals and 17 helpers in 44 matchups.
After that came 72 games with the CHL’s Kansas City Blues where he scored 21 times and added as many assists,
His efforts saw caught the eye of a fellow Lakehead product, in Norman ‘Bud’ Poile, who had recently been appointed general manager of the newly-minted Vancouver Canucks NHL franchise.
Poile in turn would select Stewart with the Canucks 10th pick in 1970 NHL Expansion Draft, from Montreal, who owned his rights.
While he played most of 1970-71 campaign with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, where he registered 27 goals, he did see his initial taste of NHL action with a three-game run in Vancouver.
Over the next year and a half Stewart skated with such clubs as the Seattle Totems (WHL), Tidewater Red Wings (AHL) and the Fort Worth Wings (CHL), before being part of a trade that saw him join the NHL’s New York Islanders.
A popular member of the Isles for four seasons, he would eventually be named one of their assistant captains while appearing in nearly 200 games on Long Island where he provided 49 tallies and 61 helpers.
During his time with the Islanders, Stewart would be depicted on a number of hockey cards, including his rookie debut in 1974-75 with both O Pee Chee & Topps (Cards No. 158), that go for $1-$2.
Appearances in OPC and Topps the following season are also in the same price range.
Same goes for his 1976-77 O Pee Chee and Topps (Cards No. 229) with Vancouver with the same going for his 1977-78 OPC (Card. No. 386) as a member of the Canucks.
A later return to the CHL as a member with the Fort Worth Texans and Tulsa Oilers, Stewart wrapped up his professional career with stops in Vancouver in 1976-77 as well as 1977-78.
He was Card No. 18 in the Vancouver Canucks 1976-77 team trading card set.
Returning to the ice with the legendary Thunder Bay Twins, local fans once again were to witness his booming slap shot as he powered his way into the offensive zone at the venerable Fort William Gardens.
As both a player and coach for the senior Twins for a number of seasons, starting in 1980, he was an invaluable member of three Allan Cup-winning teams.
A true gentleman, Ralph Stewart dressed in over 700 games as a pro where he notched 227 markers and drew assists on 307 more for a total of 534 points.