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Mannheim, Stewart go separate ways
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Januar 13, 2004; 17:38
Mannheim, Stewart go separate ways
Controversial Adler coach resigns
Frank Johne

Despite a troubled relationship to his team, Stewart had led the Adler to a 22-17 record
 
Despite a troubled relationship to his team, Stewart has led the Adler to a 22-17 record

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Munich, Germany - The Mannheim Adler and fourth-year head coach Bill Stewart go separate ways. Stewart called it quits Tuesday, just shortly after the club announced its intent to rebuild under a new coach for the 2004-05 campaign.
 

Head coach Bill Stewart leaves the Mannheim Eagles with a championship ring on his finger
Bill Stewart leaves with a championship ring on his finger
Leading DEL Scorers
(as of Feb 19, 2005)

38-year-old assistant coach Rico Rossi will serve as an interim coach. Rumor has it that German Helmut de Raaf, a former goaltender for Cologne, Düsseldorf, Mannheim and Team Germany, might be gired as new head coach.

“To part ways at this point is the right decision for both sides, I guess”, said Stewart. “I thought it was better to put this chapter behind me right away and leave the environment around the club and the team intact”.”

The environment in Mannheim is not as “intact” as Stewart put it, though. According to sources close to the team, there has been a growing rift between him and the team for several months.

Players had to go first

The 46-year-old was on the verge of being axed in late October when his team showed lacklustre performances and hit a big slump. The Adler management ended speculations about Stewart’s future when they announced the surprising release of veteran players Stefan Ustorf and Yves Racine and expressed their commitment for Stewart.

Hours later, Adler players underlined their disrespect for the controversial decision in a statement submitted to www.prohockey.de. "We view this as losing 2 of our family members", the players stated. "It is upsetting that two players' careers, families and reputations are being torn apart. [...] We are sorry and angry that Ustorf and Racine took the blame for our team’s performance."

Toronto-native Stewart, a former NHL defenseman who served as an interim head coach for the New York Islanders in 1998-99, took over head coaching reigns in Mannheim in July 2000 and led the team to the DEL championship in his first season.

Championship and controversy

Stewart’s behavior on and off the ice has always stirred controversy. He came to Germany after leading the Barrie Colts to the OHL title in 2000. After twice smuggling an Ukrainian defenseman over the US-Canadian border in the lower baggage compartment of the team bus, Stewart was relieved of his GM duties by the Colts. Even worse, he was banned from future travel into the US by immigration authorities, which in effect forced him to resign as head coach, as teams from both the US and Canada play in the OHL.

The stroke

He will be most remembered for a fake collapse during the 2000-01 DEL Finals against the Munich Barons. With his team trailing 1-0, Stewart fell down behind the bench and had to be attended to for several minutes. His sudden recovery a few minutes later coincided with the return of key player Jan Alston, who used the “time-out” to get his skates sharpened.

His team turned the game around and went on to win the championship. „It was a spontaneous idea,” Stewart later admitted. “You sometimes need unconventional methods to get a break.”

Oh Gross

Stewart’s first big appearance on the DEL show stage occurred just a couple of weeks before. During the 2000-01 DEL Quarterfinals, Stewart attacked Berlin Capitals head coach Pavel Gross on the bench after players from both sides got into a melee on the ice. His fury got him a broken nose and a black eye. Although Berlin’s request for a life-long suspension was turned down, the DEL banned Stewart for a couple of games, including the first two tilts of the finals.

The bottle throw

In last year’s playoffs, a furious Stewart smashed the windshield of his own team bus after the Mannheim Eagles got routed 6-1 by the Nürnberg Ice Tigers. He later explained that he had lost his balance and a bottle slipped out of his hands.
Frank Johne

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