Great Britain forward Liam Stewart during his first game at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Belfast against Croatia. Photo: Dean Woolley
Stewart finds fame in his own game
World Championship debutant Liam Stewart is proving that he's more than the son of famous parents with encouraging performances for GB in Belfast.
Great Britain forward Liam Stewart is revelling in his first senior international tournament in Belfast this week – and as well as bringing goals, his presence has added a touch of glamour to the tournament.
As GB warmed up for its game with Estonia on Monday evening, Liam’s mother, supermodel Rachel Hunter, was tweeting her support for the team from the SSE Arena. And she went away with plenty to be proud of after Liam scored the game-breaking goal in a 5-1 home victory that keeps the Brits perfect after two games in in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B.
Stewart, 22, is used to his family making the headlines – as well as a celebrity mum, dad Rod Stewart is a world-famous rock star, whose distinctive gravelly voice has produced hits such as ‘Sailing’, ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ and ‘Maggie May’. But now he’s out to make his own name in the game he encountered growing up in Los Angeles, and representing GB on the international stage is another exciting step in his career.
“It’s been awesome so far,” he said. “The guys have been really welcoming and we’re having a great time in Belfast. This is one of the funnier teams I’ve been a part of, as a group we’re kind of a little loose until we get onto the ice. But when it comes to a game we know what to do and we work hard.”
That hard work has brought results so far, with a 4-2 win over Croatia and a 5-1 defeat of Estonia keeping Britain among the front runners in its first tournament on home ice since the 1990s. Stewart himself has quickly moved up the team’s pecking order: initially listed as a fourth-line forward, he was promoted to the second line during the opening game and is settling into a new combination alongside Robert Farmer and fellow World Championship rookie Brendan Brooks. Coming off his first full season in British hockey, playing with Coventry Blaze in the Elite League, Stewart, trained in the U.S. but not a citizen there and thus eligible to represent his country of birth Great Britain, is learning to adapt fast.
“There’s a little bit of a difference in international play,” he said. “It’s not as physical in these tournaments, in the Elite League it’s certainly a bit rougher. In the end, you have to adjust and keep playing your game.”
At times, that adjustment has hindered GB. There were passages in both games where penalty trouble disrupted the team’s momentum and made the win harder to secure.
“That’s something we’ll look to get rid of, we want to play a full 60 minutes of hockey and we haven’t done that yet,” he said. “Luckily we came out strong in the third period and got the wins, but it’s something to work on.
“It looks like the competition here will go down to the wire, but as a kid those are the kind of games you dream of playing, those big games for medals at the end of a tournament.”
While Stewart is understandably keen that his career develops on his sporting merits rather than the reputations of his famous parents, having his mum in the crowd to cheer him on obviously means a lot to him. But it might have been a bit of a surprise for a hockey player to be judged on his singing – something usually reserved for rock stars. However, when ‘God Save the Queen’ rang out following GB’s opening 4-2 victory over Croatia, the cameras lingered on Stewart as he struggled to remember the words. By the time Estonia came into view, though, Liam was no longer fluffing his lines.
“I’ve learned them a little bit now, but that was a bit embarrassing,” he admitted. “Hopefully we’ll keep hearing it after every game here and I’ll have them perfect by the end of the week.”
And there may yet be a chance of some vocal coaching from his dad if Rod can make it over from Glasgow after enjoying Celtic’s football success at the weekend. “I know he was enjoying that Celtic game and they came out with a big win [in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers],” Stewart added. “Given the choice, he’s always going to pick Celtic first and I can’t blame him for that. But I’ve converted him to hockey a little bit, he came to some of my games with Coventry earlier in the season. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to come over during the week, though.”