Stewart, who was playing his final game in a Storm uniform as he heads back to his hometown of Chicago on Monday to accept a full-time teaching position, was honoured in a pre-game ceremony. The Storm named it ‘Al Stewart Day’ and the 2,159 fans at Eastlink Arena showed their appreciation with more than one thunderous ovation for the five-foot-10 point guard.
“I can’t really (put it into words),” said Stewart, who was besieged by photo requests on the court following the game. “It’s kind of emotional.
“I knew they (fans) supported the team, but they showed me a lot of love today (Sunday). It was pretty sad from beginning to end. . . It hasn’t really dawned on me that I’m done. It will likely tomorrow (Monday), but right now I want to soak it all in and celebrate the win.”
Storm co-owner Duncan Shaw announced Stewart will remain on the team’s active roster for the rest of the season, making him eligible to be voted in by fans for the league all-star game in Saint John, N.B., in April. Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart made a presentation to Stewart on behalf of the city, and Shaw and Storm co-owner Darren MacKay presented Stewart with a framed Storm jersey.
“It was a big day for the organization, and obviously Al Stewart,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “I can’t say enough about him. He’s been with me for three seasons now.
“He’s a true leader. Some people are good leaders because they know how to, but Al is a great leader because he knows why.
“Thank you all. Every one treated me like my family at home, and they welcomed me with open arms. It’s been a blast here the last two years. Words can’t even describe how I feel right now.” - Summerside Storm point guard Al Stewart
“We are going to miss him a lot, but I think there will be some other guys on the team step up. Al will always be a part of this team and organization whether he is here or not.”
Stewart said it means a lot to him for the Storm to keep him on the active roster.
“It means I can still have a chance to play again,” said Stewart. “I can’t make the playoffs, but hopefully I can make the all-star game at least.
“I want the fans to keep voting for me so they can see me again in an NBL uniform.”
As he has done in so many of the Storm wins over the past two years, Stewart was involved in a key play. Late in the fourth quarter, Stewart, who finished with six points and 12 assists, missed what appeared to be a three-point shot, but he didn’t hesitate to race through the paint, grab the rebound and score a key basket that drew another loud cheer from the crowd.
When asked if he wished to pass along a message to Storm fans, Stewart commented: “Thank you all. Every one treated me like my family at home, and they welcomed me with open arms.
“It’s been a blast here the last two years. Words can’t even describe how I feel right now.”