Stewart beats the odds in life and at Raider Camp
By Drew Wilson
The story of MacKenze Stewart is a tale of perseverance in the face of tremendous adversity.
The towering 17-year-old defenseman has beaten the odds all his young life.
The Calgary native who is on the cusp of making the Prince Albert Raiders had to overcome a lot just to play hockey.
"I was born deaf." said Stewart.
"Then I had a lot of surgeries, so I didn't start playing hockey until I was in grade six, so 12-years-old."
However, once Mackenze hit the ice, he developed quickly.
"As soon as I started hockey, I loved it, I kept progressing and working hard and it got me to where I am today."
Up until that point, lacing on the skates had been merely a dream of a young boy facing a considerable life challenge.
"I always had an interest in the sport," said Stewart. "I was watching it on CBC, Hockey Night in Canada, sit down and watch it with my dad and played street hockey all the time. It was always fun and became a part of my life."
Stewart is an imposing figure on the ice. His 6'3" 225 pound frame caught the attention of Raider scouts while scoring 3 goals and 8 assists in 24 games with the Okotoks Bisons of the Heritage Jr-B League and picked up valuable experience making it all the way to the final of the Alberta Jr-B championship tournament.
Stewart also feels he continues to improve the deeper he goes into a new WHL experience.
"I feel I played a lot better in main camp than rookie camp, but I've still got a lot of work to do and hopefully make it through to the (regular) season and work my way up into the lineup."
MacKenzie feels adversity early in life has helped his hockey career.
"Definitely all the hard work and knowing what it takes and you've got to pay a price to be where you want to be and it's definitely a big commitment, I was willing to do what it took to get me where I am, and still am today."
Mackenzie Stewart has been an A-student at Calgary's Edge School which has an excellent Midget hockey program, but chose to play Jr-B last season feeling it would be better for his development.
However, the chance to play in the WHL as a 17-year-old considering a young life full of obstacles is still sometimes hard to believe.
"I never expected a situation like this. I have a lot of friends I've definitely looked up to in the league and I thought, wow, what a chance, what an opportunity to get where they are." said Stewart.
"It was a surprise I even got an invite to this (Raider camp) this year and be where I am right now. I'm in a pretty good position. It's pretty much a lifelong dream"
That dream will continue as the Raiders open the preseason Friday 7pm at home against Saskatoon with the home-and-home series closing out Saturday night in Warman.
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