Bill Stewart is an 'Albert' you will remember - The Province


'Star' of Canadian Tire ad

BY MARC WEBER

How Canadian is Bill Stewart, the dad of Whitecaps midfielder Chelsea Stewart?

Not only did he play for Canada's national hockey team -- albeit, four games -- but remember that wildly popular and sentimental Canadian Tire commercial from the '80s? The one where Albert is the last kid picked for pond hockey but goes on to big-time stardom?

"I sure wish we had a guy like Albert," sighs the opposing coach in the final scene.

Yup, that's right, Bill was Albert -- the grown-up version, who for some reason had his first name stitched across his jersey as the crowd chanted: "Albert! Albert!"

"They were going to shoot it up in Kirkland Lake, Ont., but there was no ice, so they came to Denver and shot it," recalls Stewart, who was playing for the University of Denver at the time. "They came into the dressing room and said they needed the senior guys and they were going to pay us $200. For four hours' work for a college student that wasn't bad."

But the NCAA said the cash wasn't kosher, so there was no pay and no release to sign.

When Canadian Tire re-ran the spot almost a decade later, Stewart's friends called to bug him about never seeing a cent.

"I went back to the ad agency and told them I'd never signed a release. 'How much do you want?' they asked.

"I said, 'I want $1,000 to go to minor hockey in The Pas [Manitoba, where he was born and raised] and $1,000 to my son's elementary school in Denver, so the next time my buddies call me up and make fun of me for not getting paid, I can say I made $2,000.'

"So that's how they settled it up with me."

It was the first and last acting gig for Stewart, who's worked as a broker and consultant, and in 2003 partnered with six-time Stanley Cup winner Ralph Backstrom to launch the Central Hockey League's Colorado Eagles. The Eagles have sold out every home game in franchise history, which is a minor league hockey record.

Stewart has moved on to launch the junior A Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild of the North American Hockey League.

Check out the Albert commercial out on YouTube -- search: "Canadian Tire." It hasn't lost any lustre.

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