As one of the veteran leaders for the US national ball hockey team that competed at the 2015 ISBHF Worlds in Zug, Switzerland, Cherie Stewart brings a remarkable wealth of experience to any team that she competes for. Having helped the US reach the bronze medal game in Zug, Stewart also carved a legacy with a solid career in NCAA hockey with Manhattanville, where she compiled 177 points.
Such talent and determination has translated itself to an opportunity to make an impression on the ice. Having qualified for a spot on the New York Riveters roster, Stewart becomes part of an exciting chapter in American women’s hockey.
In addition, she makes her own history by becoming the first member of the US national ball hockey team to be part of an NWHL roster. The chance to be part of the Riveters represents a landmark moment in her accomplished career.
Considering that Stewart grew up in Southern California, her path towards ice hockey may not have been the common path, but it was defined by a determination that could not be extinguished. For a player like Stewart, the NWHL recognizes such desire to compete, recognizing that American women deserve a chance to continue playing after the twilight of their collegiate careers.
“I feel very fortunate to be a part of the inaugural season of the NWHL league. I came from a non-traditional hockey market (Southern California) and began playing roller hockey in predominantly male hockey leagues at the age of 11.
At 14, I learned how to ice skate and have not looked back ever since. To say the least, hockey is life for me. I am always happy to play in as many hockey leagues as I can, if my schedule permits, and now to be able to skate with some of the most talented women hockey players in the country and the world, it is truly an honor.”
Adding to the feeling of jubilation over being part of history is the sense of respect and admiration that defines the sorority of players that comprise the NWHL’s rosters. While working full-time is a reality, the varied number of occupations is fascinating. Some have remained in sport, employed in coaching or at local recreation centers in administrative capacities.
Others, such as Jillian Dempsey of the Boston Pride work as a school teacher, and her teammate Jordan Smelker works as a laboratorytechnician. Of note, Stewart has a career in Investments, and also possesses a background in marketing.
“What these women do is nothing short of amazing. Some, if not most, work at a full-time job and/or grad school, then rush home to grab a meal before heading to the rink for a two-a-day. That is dedication.
I tip my hat to the NWHL and everyone involved for paving the way and making it possible for these hockey players to play the sport that they love and be compensated for their work. The NWHL league is a significant step for the growth of women’s hockey and I am grateful to be part of the inaugural season.”
Stewart’s greatest legacy in ice hockey consists of a remarkable four-year career at Manhattanville. Playing for the Valiants program, she holds career marks in goals (101) and points (177). Fourth all-time in assists, her teammate Jessica Temesy holds the program mark.
During her time with the Valiants, the greatest moment of Stewart’s career may have occurred on January 26, 2002. Of note, she would score a goal in a game that was nothing short of monumental as it signifies the first loss in seven years for Middlebury College, as their 136-game unbeaten streak was snapped. A 2005 CCM All-America East First Team selection, she was part of the same team as the late Laura Hurd, the first four-time All-America in NCAA Division III history.
Like so many women throughout North American and Europe that carved great legacies on the ice, the ball hockey court was a way to extend Stewart’s love of the game. The sport would not only introduce her to a whole new network of competitors and friends, but it would provide an unforeseen opportunity to bring her skills to an international level of play.
“It was not until a few years ago that I picked up ball hockey. I was asked to join a league in NYC called BTSH “Black Top Street Hockey”. At first I was skeptical, there was a lot of running involved and I felt like an “ice hockey outsider” amongst a very tight knit ball hockey group.
I played a few games and was asked to go to a tournament in Ocean City, MD with one of the teams. Never saying no to hockey, I said yes and made the trip down. It was there that I developed close friendships and a full knowledge of the ball hockey world.
After one of my games, a GM from the US women’s ball hockey team approached me and told me that I should keep it up and to consider trying out for the US women’s ball hockey team. From there, I worked exceptionally hard to make that team and was given the opportunity to play with the USA women’s ball hockey team in the world championships in Zug this summer. It was an extremely rewarding experience.”
Donning number 13 for Team USA in Zug, Stewart would provide a leadership presence as the red, white and blue qualified for the bronze medal game. In USA’s first win of the tournament, an 8-0 triumph against Great Britain, Stewart earned an assist on a first period goal scored by Eleni Aidonidis.
At 14:27 in the first, Stewart would add to the US lead by scoring her first goal of the tournament, which was subsequently the team’s third goal of the game. Scored on the power play, Kelly Foley earned the assist. By tournament’s end, Stewart would score once again, adding her name to the scoresheet in a 3-0 blanking of Switzerland.
“I love hockey in all facets, be it ice, roller or ball. I would recommend ball hockey to anyone that has the love for the sport of hockey like I do. Playing ball hockey gets me in great physical shape. It has helped sharpen many skills, mainly my hand-eye coordination. Running as fast as you can while stick-handling a hockey ball isn’t as easy as it looks. There’s a lot of skill in ball hockey and I recommend any ice hockey player to give it a try.”
As the New York Riveters are one of the NWHL’s four founding franchises, Stewart is currently a member of the roster. Although it was a decision that involved soul searching and the consultation of people close to her, the result was an empowering one. Along with Taylor Holze, Amber Moore and Margot Scharfe, Stewart is among four competitors that comprise the Riveters’ practice players, showing great dedication to giving the squad a chance to win. As a side note, Stewart and Blake Bolden of the Boston Pride are the first two players of African-American heritage in the NWHL, helping to add to the feeling of history and acceptance.
“Before I joined on to be a player for the Riveters, I had to talk to my family and give it a lot of thought. I knew coming into this it would be a challenge and a full commitment that requires 110%.
Being a professional athlete, there are a lot of intangibles involved. I needed to be physically, mentally and emotionally dedicated to myself and to the team. Being a part of this team, I have to bring it every time I am out there on the ice. This is a new role for me and there are a lot of ups and downs, but I signed up to do this for a purpose greater than my own wants and needs.
This league needs everyone to be dialed in and prepared to put the best hockey product out there. I am here to help my fellow teammates and the league in any way that I can whether it is picking up pucks, scoring a goal or getting fans to the game, I am committed to helping the NWHL league be successful.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Team USA headshot obtained from: http://zug2015.com/en/teams/women/group-5/usa-united-states/
New York Riveters media day with Amber Moore: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/North America
Image in NWHL jersey supplied by Cherie Stewart