Today, Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler were traded from the Boston Bruins to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik.
Although he’s had a rough season, Stuart has been one of my favorite players for the Boston Bruins. Not a flashy guy, but gets the job done and is one of those all-around nice guys. I admit, I may be one of the few hockey fans who has his jersey.
A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to interview him while working in the Boston Bruins media relations department. Here’s the story that resulted from our conversation:
Stuart’s Strong on Boston’s Back Line
Before settling in at the TD Banknorth Garden, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, or “The Dunk” (as it is affectionately known by Bruins fan of both the Boston and Providence variety), was home to Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart for the majority of his career in Black & Gold.
Although the trips up and down I-95 seem to be a thing of the past, this past Sunday, in his third pro year and first as a full time Boston blue liner, Stuart faced some new opponents in a different dunk—the dunk tank at the 18th Annual Boston Bruins Wives Carnival. Fans who attended the carnival were able to take their shot at submerging Stuart in 450 gallons of water.
While the joke on Causeway Street had been which Bruin would be this year’s Dunk Tank victim, the truth is that the good-natured Stuart actually volunteered for the task.
“It’s a role I accepted,” Stuart told BostonBruins.com prior to the carnival, “I’ve never been in a dunk tank. I mean, I’ve participated, but never inside the tank.”
What was his one concern?
“I hope it’s not too cold.”
As if that would be a problem for the defenseman who has been braving the cold since he first toddled onto the ice as a curious three year old that wanted to do everything his big brothers did.
“I was kind of a little copy cat,” he admitted.
Fortunately for Stuart (and Bruins fans), he’s been able to do at least two things like his older brothers. All three brothers played for Colorado College and all three were drafted into the National Hockey League.
Eldest brother Mike was drafted by the Nashville Predators and spent time playing with the St. Louis Blues. Middle brother Colin Stuart scored his first NHL goal this past New Year’s Eve when the Atlanta Thrashers paid a visit to the TD Banknorth Garden.
Don’t worry Bruins fans—Mark, the youngest of the Stuart men, returned the favor by netting his own goal against his brother’s squad the next period.
But playing for different teams seems to be the extent of sibling rivalry for these brothers. When asked about how his brothers have influenced his hockey career, Mark had nothing but glowing praise for both of them.
“Colin [has] been huge for me,” said Mark of his brother, who was just recently called up to Atlanta for his first NHL stint. “It’s pretty cool to see him get rewarded. It’s his fourth year pro. He has really put in his time and developed. He’s worked really hard.”
“I looked up to both of them. My oldest brother Mike is a defenseman, so when I was younger I did exactly what he did on and off the ice…He helped me a lot growing up.”
In fact, Stuart credits his family as “the number one reason I am where I am today.”
Not to be neglected in the very athletic family is the littlest Stuart (in both age and stature), Cristin, a senior at Boston College who serves as captain of the Eagles’ women’s ice hockey team, and who Mark says is “ doing great, with both the hockey thing and the school thing.”
Beyond his “real” family, for Stuart the extended family members that he has acquired as part of the Bruins organization have also served as role models.
“Coming into the league, Jay Leach, who was our captain down in Providence, was a good example. [I admired] how hard he worked and took care of his body. He was a very levelheaded guy. I think I looked up to him and learned a lot from him.”
Stuart’s own levelheadedness, work ethic, and leadership are some of the strongest qualities he brings to ice. During the last two seasons, when he was sent up and down between Providence and Boston, Mark never got down on himself.
Instead, he viewed his assignments as opportunities to become a better player.
“When I was in Providence it was great, because the coaches down there really teach…It really is a development team and [the AHL is] a development league. That’s where I really improved.”
Not that his early stints in Boston weren’t appreciated.
“You get to come up here for a few games and learn what it’s like to play at this level and say ‘I could do this,’ you go back down there and continue to work and hope that you get called back up.”
After two years of ups and downs, it looks as though Mark Stuart is finally able to call Boston his home.
And with his “will do” attitude, he’ll look to do whatever it takes to stay — even if it means braving Boston’s finest fans at the Dunk Tank, which he did with aplomb on January 6th.
“The first session I was freezing,” said Stuart of his tank experience. “But you get used to it. The second session was easier than the first.”
Again, just like his first few games in the NHL and his time AHL, Stuart’s experience showed him the way.
“The second session I got smart,” he said, with a laugh. “I put (moisture wicking athletic gear) and a tight long sleeve shirt and another long sleeve over that.
“So, I was a little warmer the second time around.”