By John Mather
After a misdiagnosed injury forced him to leave professional hockey, Steve Bewley returned to Oakville and began work in a factory.
The former Ryerson hockey player took on a few other jobs after playing minor pro for the ECHLs Mississippi Sea Wolves – including a stint on television as a character in the ESPN drama “The Playmakers” – but finally settled as an account manager at Canada Bread in the fall of 2003.
In the evenings, he continued painstaking physical training and physiotherapy and eventually ministered himself back to health. “I hobbled around for a year,” recalls Bewley, now 28.
Then one Friday, just over a year after being released by the Sea Wolves, Bewley tuned into the Fan 590 on the radio. On the air was an advertisement for Making the Cut.
It was a truly Canadian reality show. Anyone could try out for a shot at the NHL. Currently, it is being broadcast on CBC, at 9 p.m. every Tuesday night.
“I wasn’t going to do it at first because of a shoulder injury,” he says, “then I thought, what the hell, I’ve got nothing to lose.”
He went to York University for the last tryout in Toronto. There, the weak skaters – and those who showed up on a betwere weeded out. Despite his rigorous workout schedule, Bewley’s skates were not the only ones feeling the rust.
“It was tiring to say the least.” In late June, Bewley received a phone call saying he made the top 100. Two weeks later, he got another one: he was in the final 68he had made it.
“Shit, I’ve got two weeks to get in shape.” Bewley hit the gym. In a few weeks he would be flying out to Vernon B.C. There, coaching legends Scotty Bowman and Mike Keenan would run a training camp for two weeks.
In the end, six players would be given a shot at an NHL training camp. For Bewley, this was a reward for pushing through an injury that basically crippled his hope of a professional career. But more importantly, it was a second chance. The 6-foot-1, 210 pound Bewley showed a lot of versatility during his university career.
When Bewley came to Ryerson in 1998, he spent the next few seasons in the Ryerson net. After only missing the playoffs by one game in 1999-2000 season, Steve says the next year was really tough. “I saw a lot of rubber.”
On average, he faced 48 shots a game. In Bewley’s final year, Jon Sikkema, a goalie with professional experience, came to Ryerson. Bewley showed up late to the team’s second game, and Sikkema got the start.
The newcomer went on to win the next four games and took over the starting position. Rather than be relegated to a backup role, Bewley decided to try and make it as a defenceman.
“When I look back on it, it was a little bit crazy.” Despite the drastic move, two weeks later he was playing defence on the Rams blueline. “I am really proud of that last year,” he says, but not only because of his personal accomplishment.
The team, which hadn’t qualified for the postseason since 1989, made it to the second round of the 2002 playoffs. However, Bewley found being an athlete at the school was a challenge. No home rink, limited funding, and a general lack of school spirit were obstacles. “I have a lot respect for any Ryerson athlete. If they are playing their sport, I respect them.”
Busy with work and going to the gym, Bewley has not had the time to watch many episodes of Making the Cut. “I get my dad to tape them for me.” As of this week, Bewley had been demoted to a role as a Black Ace.
There are two main teams on the show – the Blue Team and the Gold Team. The Black Aces are players who have been cut from these teams, but still train and practice. If a player on Blue or Gold gets injured, or does not play well, a Black Ace is called up.
Bewley was disappointed to be on the Black Aces (taping ended in August, but he is not allowed to say if he moved up). “I thought I had done a little bit better,” he admits, “then I though I could be a baby and cry about it, or realize ‘hey I am here for two weeks, I should get the most out of it.”
Bewley was glad the players were not thrown in to Survivor-like challenges. Instead, the concept of the the war room – where coaches and scouts meet to discuss players’ performanceappealed to him as a longtime athlete.
The war room is known for its particularly biting evaluations. At the time, Bewley said he had a good idea what was being said, and now watching the episodes on tape, the criticism does not faze him.
“It is a television show, they need to make it exciting.” Now that the show is over, Bewley has not completely given up hockey. “In many ways [Making the Cut] has made me want to play more.”
Although he could not elaborate, he conceded a few professional clubs are looking at him. “It’s hard because the [NHL] lockout has created a trickle down effect [to minor pro leagues].”
As a result, Bewley says he has decided to keep his options open. There is a possibility he might go back to TV, or to chiropractic school. Either way, Bewley says he will treat life like he treats athletics.
“I train like an athlete, and I work like a professional businessman.”