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Stewart makes Atlantic crossing to take on world for Great Britain

LIAM STEWART did not stay for the full 15 minutes of fame.

Liam Stewart is adjusting quickly to the rapid style of the Great Britain team. Picture: Colin Lawson
Liam Stewart is adjusting quickly to the rapid style of the Great Britain team. Picture: Colin Lawson

He excused himself after half that time to instead imitate a series of stretches as Great Britain's Under-20 ice hockey squad was taken through a warm down, following an opening-day defeat by Italy at the World Championships in Dumfries.

The match had become exacting after it extended to sudden death overtime, and the 19-year-old had just been exercised further by reminders that he is rock royalty, too: the son of Rod Stewart.

He is the offspring of a somebody, but Stewart could be just about anyone on the ice, a sense of anonymity which is helped by an assembly of heavy pads and a helmet which reveals only a few tufts of dark hair. He qualifies for the GB team through his father - his mother, supermodel Rachel Hunter, is from New Zealand - but has been selected thanks to his performances with Western Hockey League side Spokane Chiefs in the United States.

His display for GB on Monday night had been marked out by shrewd play and impressive handling of a puck rather than parentage and it was his assist which set up Shawn Mackie for the team's second goal in a 4-3 defeat. The attention given to Stewart's name was manifest only in more rigorous marking.

It was afterwards that the teenager was given some celebrity treatment, an imposing display making him the centre of attention so that everyone wanted to take a piece. His team-mates, though, all preferred to take the p***, the forward interrupted by the same teasing dispensed to any player who happens to be discovered wandering in the limelight. A conversation with Rod's boy was accompanied by mock snoring and a couple of catcalls, then, rather than to the tune of one of his father's hits.

"I just think of myself as any other guy," says Stewart, whose team face France tomorrow, before completing their fixtures against Ukraine and Japan at the weekend.

"Obviously some people are going to think of me differently because of who my parents are, but I put that behind me and get along with all the guys. Nobody in [the dressing room] has mentioned it or put on any Rod Stewart songs . . .

"I've spoken to my dad and he's really proud of me. It's a bummer he couldn't come out and watch but I know he's supporting me. It's an honour, an honour to play for GB. I'm real excited and we're going to do good in this tournament."

It was a sentiment born of national pride, but accented by someone raised in the US. Stewart refers to Los Angeles as "home" and had to seek special dispensation before his call-up to the GB squad could be formalised, with the forward joining the group later as a result. He has found his feet on the ice quickly, though, named as one of the team's two assistant captains at the championships - a senior role which affords him permission to approach a referee during a match. Stewart represents his teammates, then, and is acutely aware of his responsibility for his national team too, even if his arrival in Dumfries this week is one of only a handful of trips to Scotland.

"I see myself as mostly Scottish, or British," says the teenager, who moved to California when he was three. "I don't get over too often - I'm always back home in LA - and this is my first time in Scotland in four years. The last time was when I came over to visit my dad. It's been a while, a long time. But I'm glad I made it."

The forward's connection to Scotland has been able to span the Atlantic, but it is cooled slightly when he takes to the ice as the style of play favoured by GB seems foreign to him. The game in the US is more forceful by comparison, and even more likely to leave a bruise.

"It's very European style here; quick, skilled, shifty plays," says Stewart. "It's a pretty big difference to back where I play, where it's more physical with more forechecking; a lot more hitting.

"It's skilled where I play too but even the skilled guys will get the puck deep and hit guys. It is different adjusting but I think I'll really enjoy it."

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