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A lifelong passion


BROOKFIELD – Patrick Stewart and James Rutherford never had allusions of grandeur when it came to the game of hockey. They were happy to stay close to home.

The two boys grew up together, close as kin, in Brookfield. They were typical small town kids, playing softball in the summer and hockey in the winter. They were best friends. Their parents were best friends.

And they loved their hometown junior team, the Brookfield Elks.

“I played here for years,” Stewart said, glancing sideways at the old brick walls of the Don Henderson Memorial Sportsplex. “I grew up two seconds down the road and live two seconds up the road now.”

Stewart was a hometown hero in his teenage years, a hardworking, hardnosed player with a big league shot who never strayed too far from home. He’d have a cup of tea with the junior A Bearcats during their 2004-2005 championship season, but returned to play with the Elks. He was named the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League’s best defenceman two years later, helping the Elks to the league semifinals.

Stewart even got married at centre ice in the Brookfield rink.

So it only made sense when he took over control of the team at the start of last season.

“I’ve been coming to this rink since I was three years old,” he said. “It’s all I know, really. And to be able to do it with one of my best friends, you don’t get that opportunity very often.”

Rutherford was coaching in Eastern Shore when he got a call from Stewart, saying he was taking over the Elks. He asked if Rutherford wanted to join him, but he already knew the answer.

“I don’t have a wife or kids, so this team is my life,” said Rutherford, who also handles general manager duties. “If I didn’t have this team, I don’t know what I’d do to be honest. I’d have a lot of free time. This team is everything to us.”

There have been plenty of growing pains since taking over control. Several hometown players had left when coaches turned over year after year before Stewart. On top of that, post-secondary commitments took a few veterans off the roster this season. They’ve gotten off to a 3-9-1-1 start, but have shown streaks of the team they can be. Still, they’ve struggled to string together a full 60 minutes.

The Elks have eight games left before Christmas break, by which time they hope to have worked out the kinks for the season’s second half. The first of those games is tonight in Cole Harbour, taking on the Colts. Next, they’ll host their regular Tuesday night home game, this time against the Liverpool Privateers.

Win or lose, it’s the experience of a lifetime for two forever friends from Brookfield.

“When I started coaching six or seven years ago, I never thought of going anywhere,” Rutherford said. “But if I could end coaching in Brookfield with Patrick, that was the end goal.”

The two boys grew up together, close as kin, in Brookfield. They were typical small town kids, playing softball in the summer and hockey in the winter. They were best friends. Their parents were best friends.

And they loved their hometown junior team, the Brookfield Elks.

“I played here for years,” Stewart said, glancing sideways at the old brick walls of the Don Henderson Memorial Sportsplex. “I grew up two seconds down the road and live two seconds up the road now.”

Stewart was a hometown hero in his teenage years, a hardworking, hardnosed player with a big league shot who never strayed too far from home. He’d have a cup of tea with the junior A Bearcats during their 2004-2005 championship season, but returned to play with the Elks. He was named the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League’s best defenceman two years later, helping the Elks to the league semifinals.

Stewart even got married at centre ice in the Brookfield rink.

So it only made sense when he took over control of the team at the start of last season.

“I’ve been coming to this rink since I was three years old,” he said. “It’s all I know, really. And to be able to do it with one of my best friends, you don’t get that opportunity very often.”

Rutherford was coaching in Eastern Shore when he got a call from Stewart, saying he was taking over the Elks. He asked if Rutherford wanted to join him, but he already knew the answer.

“I don’t have a wife or kids, so this team is my life,” said Rutherford, who also handles general manager duties. “If I didn’t have this team, I don’t know what I’d do to be honest. I’d have a lot of free time. This team is everything to us.”

There have been plenty of growing pains since taking over control. Several hometown players had left when coaches turned over year after year before Stewart. On top of that, post-secondary commitments took a few veterans off the roster this season. They’ve gotten off to a 3-9-1-1 start, but have shown streaks of the team they can be. Still, they’ve struggled to string together a full 60 minutes.

The Elks have eight games left before Christmas break, by which time they hope to have worked out the kinks for the season’s second half. The first of those games is tonight in Cole Harbour, taking on the Colts. Next, they’ll host their regular Tuesday night home game, this time against the Liverpool Privateers.

Win or lose, it’s the experience of a lifetime for two forever friends from Brookfield.

“When I started coaching six or seven years ago, I never thought of going anywhere,” Rutherford said. “But if I could end coaching in Brookfield with Patrick, that was the end goal.”

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