Unlike many young kids, Mark Stuart did not pick up his passion for hockey from his father. His dad Mike Stuart was a football and baseball player all his life and only fell in love with hockey when the family moved to Minnesota where hockey is very popular.
“We had a rink in the back yard every winter and through work he got involved with the local junior hockey team,” remembered Stuart.
“One of my favourite memories growing up was going to those hockey games every Friday and Saturday night in Rochester. I didn’t watch a lot of pro or college games then, that USHL team was what I remember growing up with.”
The local Rochester team was called the Rochester Mustangs, a team that Mark’s older brother also named Mike, had played for.
As Mark became more and more serious with his hockey career, his father wanted to get more and more involved but not just as a hockey dad. In fact, he was the team doctor for the US National team when Mark played for the national junior team.
“One of my favourite experiences with him was when I played for US at the World Junior Championships in Finland (2004),” he remembered. “He was part of our team and we won the Gold, so to share that with him was pretty special.”
Mark hopes to share another national experience like that again one day, possibly at the World Championship level.
“He knows more about the game than I do,” he said. “He follows hockey very closely, just loves watching it and being involved with it.”
Playing sports in the Stuart family was all about having fun and playing hard with no stress and no pressure, something that Mark is very thankful for looking back on his childhood.
“The coolest thing about growing up around him was that he let us have fun with sports,” said Stuart. “He never pushed us at all. I played football and baseball growing up; hockey wasn’t the only thing he encouraged. All he cared about is that you worked hard and had fun. That’s one thing I’m thankful for because otherwise I may have gotten burnt out.”