Gaye Stewart was born knee-deep in the hockey culture of his native Fort William, Ontario where shinny games on the Neebing River and Foster Hewitt on Saturday night radio were standard fare. The young skater got his first personal encounter with the NHL when, upon completion of the 1937 playoffs, the Leafs came through town for a brief stopover at the local train station while en route to a Western tournament. Stewart and his father waited patiently at the station until the youngster was rewarded with autographs from Charlie Conacher, Busher Jackson, and Joe Primeau?the Kid Line.
In 1940-41, Stewart went to Toronto to skate for the Marlboros of the OHA. He finished his first campaign as the league's top scorer. The following year, he embarked on a string of successes unparalleled in pro hockey. He started the 1941-42 season with the Marlboro juniors. Shortly thereafter, he was bumped up to the Marlboro seniors. He then got the nod to join the Hershey Bears of the AHL near the end of the campaign and was then called up to join the Maple Leafs in time for the playoffs. By season's end he had played junior, senior, minor pro and pro, all in one season, and got a Stanley Cup win to top things off.
In 1942-43, Stewart completed his first full season as a Leaf and outdid rookie Rocket Richard to take the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie of that year. From there, he left the NHL to join the military during World War II. He served in the Canadian Navy along the St. Lawrence River until the conflict's end.
In 1945-46, Stewart rejoined the Leafs on a line with fellow Fort William natives Gus Bodnar and Bud Poile. The trio became known as "The Flying Forts" and their strong chemistry helped power Stewart to the top of the league in goals scored with 37 on the season. Surprisingly, no Leaf has led the NHL in goals scored for a single campaign since then.
Stewart and "The Flying Forts" helped lift the Leafs to a Stanley Cup victory in 1946-47. After the start of the following season, however, the trio was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in an exchange that brought Max Bentley to Toronto.
In the Windy City, Stewart continued to perform as a solid winger with a touch around the net. He played parts of three seasons with the club before his offensive numbers began to slip. As such, he began to circulate more, first with the Detroit Red Wings, then the New York Rangers, and finally, the Montreal Canadiens.
Stewart's stay with the Habs, though, was brief. He appeared in a handful of games between 1952 and 1954. Otherwise, he spent the bulk of his time in the minors with the Quebec Aces and Buffalo Bisons.
The veteran winger retired in 1955 and pursued a career as an NHL referee until 1958.
Courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame.