PHATS Member Spotlight – Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart, Head Athletic Trainer, Pittsburgh Penguins
PHATS: What got you started in athletic training and how did you get your start in Professional Hockey?
CS: While playing high school sports I got to know the athletic trainers that covered our school and at the time it kind of interested me. It wasn’t until I sustained an injury while playing baseball in college and rehabbing that injury that really made me chose this profession.
Helping a player return to play was rewarding and to be a part of a bigger team trying to achieve a goal were the aspects that convinced me to follow this path.
PHATS: You became Pittsburgh’s Head Athletic Trainer in 2006 after roles in Carolina, the AHL’s Lowell Lock Monsters and the ECHL’s Johnstown Chiefs. How did those experiences prepare you for your role in Pittsburgh?
CS: For those working in professional sports we all know each level has its own uniqueness. You have to learn to wear many hats but at the same time focusing on your main job. You learn to prepare for anything whether it is riding on a bus or flying on a plane. When something pops up you have to be prepared. Learning through the different levels I have worked at has really prepared me to take each step to get to where I am now.
PHATS: After two very challenging seasons with the pandemic, what are your hopes for this upcoming season?
CS: We all want to get back to being normal which continues to seem far off especially for us athletic trainers going through COVID times.
PHATS: You’re a regular at our Conferences each Summer! After two years of virtual meetings, we are all looking forward to Marco Island, FL. Can you speak to how the Conference impacts you on a professional level?
CS: The conference is such a great tool to have for our professional organization. With all the new technologies coming out yearly and new topics to discuss, the conference is a great way to stay progressive. Having direct communication with vendors is especially important because in my opinion, you learn more by interacting with someone than you do on a website. The most important aspect to me is that the conference allows us to interact with our colleagues in person to discuss issues. Whether it be league related or just socially gathering, both are very important.
PHATS: What is one characteristic you feel is important in the role of Athletic Trainer at any level of hockey?
PHATS: What advances in your profession have been the most beneficial to you?
CS: I do not think there is one certain advancement that I could single out. I believe that athletic training as a profession has grown in all aspects since I first started over 25 years ago.
PHATS: Even though you don’t often get a lot of time in the cities you travel to, what is one of your favorite hockey cities to visit and why?
CS: Nashville would probably be at the top of my list. Just a great city with entertainment to enjoy even if it’s just for one night. It is also a great building to experience a game. Good memories there over the years.
PHATS: Do you have a professional mentor or Athletic Trainer you admire?
CS: I never really had a specific mentor but over the years I have taken the time to learn from athletic trainers, physicians, physical therapists, and strength coaches.
PHATS: What advice would you give your younger self if you were just starting in professional hockey?
CS: If you are not prepared to work 24/7 (it seems like), rethink your choice.
Tell us about yourself, your family, and your hobbies.
I was born and raised in Johnstown PA. I am married to my wife Kimberly, and we have three kids, Christian, 22, Rylie, 18, and Adisson, 11. I enjoy golfing, hunting and other outdoor activities.
All photos courtesy of Chris Stewart