His list of accomplishments is already impressive. First round draft pick. Captained Colorado College in his junior year. Captain of the first American team to win gold at the World Juniors. For Mark Stuart
, all of these achievements were the next logical step in his road to the NHL.
Born into a hockey family in Rochester, Minnesota. Mark’s family came to Rochester when his father re-located from Illinois for work. Mark’s dad serves co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at the Mayo Clinic.
“My Dad didn’t know anything about hockey, but as soon as he got to Minnesota it was just natural to put us into it because the youth hockey program was so strong,” explains Mark.
“My dad built a rink in the backyard, and that’s where I learned how to skate, “ described Mark, “I had two older brothers, so basically I did whatever they did, so I got into hockey. Rochester was the perfect place for hockey.”
Mark has two older brothers, Mike and Colin. Mike was drafted by Nashville in 2000 while Colin was drafted by the Thrashers in 2001 and is currently captain of the Rochester Americans (AHL). Mark’s younger sister, Cristin, played four seasons at Boston College.Mark Stuart
never laid out his hockey career, his path to the NHL just panned out ahead of him. “I really just took it step-by-step,” he explained. “My first ‘real’ goal was to make the National Team development program in Ann Arbor, and that was a huge step, and then college was naturally the next step. I ended up where my brothers did, Colorado College.”
Stuart was selected in the first round, 21st overall by the Boston Bruins at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft held in Nashville. Getting drafted was a big step for Mark, but the NHL was still not his primary goal.
“I didn’t really think about the NHL until the draft. After the draft he NHL was in reach, but I was more focused on winning a national championship.”
The year after he was drafted, Mark Stuart
captained a very talented Team USA at the 2004 World Junior Hockey Championship in Helsinki, Finland. The Americans won their first-ever gold medal that year, defeating Canada 4-3 in the final.
Winning the gold medal at that tournament was one of my greatest memories. - Mark Stuart
“It was one of the coolest experiences I have had as a hockey player,” Stuart reminisced, “Winning the gold medal at that tournament was one of my greatest memories.”
His career just developed from there, as he led the Colorado College Tigers to the Frozen Four in 2005. “That was a huge deal at the time. We ended up losing to Denver, but just to have that chance was a great experience.”
The following season, Stuart made the jump to the professional ranks. He spent most of the 2005-06 season with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence, RI.
“It was an adjustment for sure; the game was different. I had the luxury of some great coaching staff: Rob Murray, Scott Gordon, those guys helped out, and taught me how to be a professional.”
On February 28, 2011, Stuart was traded along with forward Blake Wheeler
to the Atlanta Thrashers, marking another step in his hockey career.
“I’ve learned to never get too comfortable,” stated Mark, “I don’t think I’ve ever really ‘made it’. It’s good to be here and it’s good to be playing, but it can also change fast, and you just have to continue to work hard and play well.”