Not bad for the self-effacing Hull, Massachusetts, native, but no surprise to the Stirling family, whose members include a former pro player and an ice dancer. "My dad played pro after college under contract with the Boston Bruins' minor league team and is now the coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers [of the American Hockey League]," Stirling says. His mother is - or was - the ice dancer.
After graduating as an economics and business concentrator from Brown, where he was on the hockey team, Stirling signed as a free agent with the Lowell Loch Monsters of the American Hockey League, a step below the NHL. Lowell assigned him to Trenton, another level down in the East Coast League. This year he signed a new deal with the AHL's Worcester Ice Cats (part of the St. Louis Blues organization), which moved him to Atlantic City.
To what does he attribute his success thus far? "Other than working hard and being pretty athletic for a big guy," he says, "I don't claim to do anything better than any other player." As goalie, he adds, "I try and use my size as an advantage and try to take up as much room as I can."
His work ethic comes directly from his father, to whom he proudly credits his dedicated spirit. "One thing I learned from my dad, who was an All-American at Boston University, was that it's a God-given talent and you have to work hard to become the person you can be." His love of the sport becomes obvious when he describes the team's camaraderie. "It's an exciting feeling when you go out as part of a group of twenty guys and have a team effort. It's a difficult sport, combining speed, skating ability, and strength on a sheet of ice. If I didn't love it, I wouldn't be doing it."
And then there are the bus trips, a staple of minor-league life in any sport. "It's not a nice bus," Stirling says. "For example, one Friday we left Atlantic City at 11 p.m., got to Johnstown [Pennsylvania] at 4 a.m., played that night, then went to Trenton on Sunday afternoon."
Stirling is realistic about his dream of making it to the NHL. "I'd love to make hockey my career," he says, "but I'm not going to be foolish about the future. Brown gave me the best of both worlds, and I have many opportunities because of that. I got a great education and played a great sport. So whenever I decide to retire from sports, I have a great education to pull out of my back pocket."