The day Anthony Stewart came back home from his Ontario Hockey League team, the Kingston Frontenacs, and watched his 6-foot-2, 260-pound brother Chris playing a pickup hockey game, he immediately knew he had to take initiative.
It was Anthony, the oldest of Norman and Susan Stewart's seven children, who felt like he needed to push his younger brother to the ice and away from the gridiron, even though Chris excelled in football.
"He was a natural athlete," Anthony said of Chris. "He was just a little heavy and was playing football. He had a couple offers for collegiate football. But I watched a pickup game of his and he had really good hands and he was actually really fast.
"I just mentioned to him that if he got in shape, lose 20-30 pounds, he could get a tryout with Kingston. He actually did that, stayed true to his word, and we got him a tryout and the rest is history."
Nine years later, here they are: Anthony and Chris Stewart
, of Jamaican and Irish heritage, who lost their mother five years ago to a heart attack, both playing in the NHL. They'll be adversaries when the puck drops Friday night when Anthony's Carolina Hurricanes visit Chris' St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.
"I'm excited," Chris said. "I felt like it's been a long time and a long time overdue. We went for dinner (Wednesday) night, and I'm sure we'll go for dinner again tonight. I look forward to tomorrow.
"Hopefully nothing happens to one of us today. We'll get out there tomorrow."
Nobody could have predicted that one Stewart brother, let alone two, would make it to the NHL. Their parents had a lot to do with it, considering Norman Stewart migrated from his native Jamaica in 1974 to Montreal in search of a better life. Living in Scarborough, Ont., in a particularly tough neighborhood, Norman introduced his sons to hockey. He didn't want the boys going down the wrong path.
"It's a big day for our family. They're going to be watching," Anthony said of the first meeting between the Stewart brothers. "They're not going to make it in, but they're definitely excited and the buddies back home are texting us asking if we're going to fight. We'll be fighting on the score sheet. That's probably about it."
The brothers are working on getting a visa for their father to get him into the United States, but for now, a couch and television set will have to do.
"If you know my dad, he's comfortable at home in front of a TV," Chris said. "It's going to feel good either way, but I'm sure he'd want to be here in person. We've got a rematch in Carolina later on in the year. Maybe he'll make it to that one.
"He loves the game. He watches every game. I'm sure he'll feel like a kid on Christmas watching tomorrow."
Chris has the better numbers of the two power forwards, with 69 goals and 138 points in 198 career games in his fourth season. Anthony has 20 goals and 53 points in 191 career games in this, his sixth season. But going into their matchup, all Chris can talk about is the push he got from his big brother.
"If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be where I am today," Chris said. "He obviously set the bar high for the footsteps to fall in the family. Just watching him growing up and learning that power forward game firsthand, he's the one I learned it from."
And make no mistake: Anthony is a proud big brother.
"From seeing him where he was five or six years ago to now, it's exciting to see where he'll be in another four or five years because he's scratching the surface on his potential," Anthony said. "It won't be surprising if he scores 40 goals (and becomes) a point a game player."
The brothers remain close and talk on a regular basis -- but once the puck drops Friday night, it's no holds barred.
"There's not going to be any lost feelings," Chris said. "It doesn't matter when it comes to game days. We've just got to play."