Among the 2nd generation of Edmonton Oilers, only Ryan Smyth’s incredible footprint can rival the true giants of Oiler lore. Smyth bleeds copper, orange and blue just like Oilers Nation. The bond between player and fanbase is exceptional.


Ryan Smyth was a highly skilled junior player who built a solid pre-draft resume with the Moose Jaw Warriors. His brief bio on draft day offered some idea about what he would become:

  • Ryan Smyth: combines quickness and accelaration with agility and balance. A 50-goal scorer with Moose Jaw of the WHL. 

Smyth’s association with the Edmonton Oilers seemed preordained. When he was just a kid, Smyth worked at the Banff Springs Hotel, and in 1987 Team Canada stayed there while training for the upcoming Canada Cup. A car in the parking lot driven by the Edmonton Oilers Glenn Anderson hit him. Smyth was hospitalized but would be alright. The two would play together briefly as Oilers in 1995-96, one generation passing the torch to the next. 

Smyth was selected 6th overall in the 1994 draft by the Edmonton Oilers. Glen Sather told his scouts they didn’t need to hit a home run, but needed to find a hockey player. The scouts decided to do both.


It took about 2 years after the draft in 1994 summer for Smyth to establish himself as an NHL player. After playing the 1994-95 season in Moose Jaw and helping Canada capture gold at the 1995 World Junior Championships, Smyth made his NHL debut playing in three games with the Oilers. The following year he played sparingly in 48 games and scored just 2 goals.

In 1996-97, Ryan Smyth exploded offensively for 39 goals. His arrival as a quality NHL player coincided with a march up the standings for an Oilers team that had been docile for some time. Smyth got off to an exceptional start, and in late October scored his 6th and 7th goals of the season to tie Mike Gartner for the lead league.

  • Smyth: "I got a lot of garbage goals in junior, but this has been something else. I’ve got a few garbage goals and a few alright goals."

Smyth found a home in the early years riding portside with the supremely talented Doug Weight, and for a time the duo made magic with big power forward Bill Guerin to form one of the best lines in Oilers’ history.

Smyth’s great skills included an exceptional ability to take and make a pass, strength along the boards, a rugged style and a sixth sense around the net. He was invaluable to the Oilers, and became well known as Captain Canada for his willingness to skate miles representing his country at the World Championships and the Olympics. 

Here is a typical Ryan Smyth goal:


After the Stanley Cup finals in 2006, there were plenty of Oilers who needed to be signed. Fernando Pisani, Dwayne Roloson and a few others had expiring contracts, while Smyth’s had one year to go. Smyth waited patiently for a time, but then went public with his frustrations in 2006 fall.

After that, it became a battle of wills and the negotiations between GM Kevin Lowe and Smyth’s representation did not go well. Smyth’s expiring contract was $3.5M and he was looking for something in the area of $5.5M from the Oilers in a multi-year deal (he would eventually sign for a $6.25M cap hit).

When they finally traded him, there was a sense of shock in Oilers Nation and around the hockey world. The face of the Oilers, the emotional leader of the team and for much of his 12-year career in Edmonton their best player, was gone in a heartbeat.

  • Kevin Lowe:"I always thought we would get a deal done. And really, until recently when, in our minds, we really stepped up, thought that maybe it’s not so obvious, maybe it’s not so easy."
  • Kevin Lowe: "We’re not a better team with Ryan gone, no question. But in the very near future, we’ll be a better team."
  • Agent Don Meehan: "I’m surprised actually, given what Ryan is to the community and what he has been to the franchise. But I understand that, with all due respect, they have the ability to make these decisions and that’s what management has to do in these circumstances."

In the long history of a franchise, there are actually few moments that become so famous they transcend time and place and elevate or fracture a team and its fans. The Ryan Smyth trade, in its own way, is as unforgettable as a Stanley victory or that glorious 2006 run.

The feelings ran deep, and still do to this day. Ryan Smyth may have wept at the airport, but in many ways it strengthened his hold on the fanbase, and made management appear small and petty. There is a portion of Oilers Nation that has not forgiven the Ryan Smyth trade these years later. It may never happen.


  • Smyth’s goal at 27:40 of this video was a major highlight
  • Member of the 2006 Stanley Cup finalist Edmonton Oilers
  • Olympic Gold Medal (2002)
  • A six-time member of Canada’s World Championship team (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005)
  • Gold medalist at the Word Championships (2003, 2004)
  • Played a key role in Canada’s victory at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
  • Represented Canada in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin
  • Smyth has represented his homeland so often that he has been referred to as "Captain Canada".
  • Smyth is the all-time leader in GP by a Canadian at the World Championships.


Ryan Smyth was a high draft pick who arrived with skill and fury, caught the imagination of the Oiler fans and never let go. The image of Smyth flying down the wing and making a crisp pass on the fly are myriad, as are his "garbage" goals–which all counted–along with his sincere "hockey cliche" interviews are treasures for Oiler fans. Through it all, Ryan Smyth has shown himself to be the genuine article–a gifted hockey player with a love for the game and a strong attachment to the city that holds him dear. 

I would rank him as the best left wing in Oilers history, and easily the team’s biggest impact player 1995-2010.

These days, Ryan Smyth patrols the 3rd and 4th lines, mentoring the youth and passing the torch. The young men who hope to bring glory to Edmonton would do well to learn about heart, soul and dedication from Ryan Smyth.

  • Clay (The Butcher) Butchart

    You are correct sir. I, for one, will never forgive management for trading Ryan Smyth away. I was overjoyed to get him back, and I hope some of the character of this man rubs of on these younger players, as well as a little of his work ethic.

  • #94 sized hole where my heart used to be...

    I cried along with Smytty when he got traded and I’m not ashamed to admit it.. There is no one during the entire history of the organization that appreciates that Oil drop crest on his sweater more than Ryan.. I don’t care what anyone says about a “wall of honour” potentially in RX2 or something to that affect to honour people like Doug Weight, Bill ranford and Ryan Smyth, who mean alot to the team but arent Hall of Famer’s, sure do that for everyone else but Smytty’s #94 deserves to be along side those greats already hanging in the my opinion Smyth deserves this because for us fans who werent alive for the 80’s who may appreciate what that dynasty did but never got to see them live, Smytty is our guy and represents that scrappy era of the Oilers during the mid 90’s to early 2000’s where we werent the most talented club but they showed up ready to work for that W.. Ryan Smyth is an Oilers legend.. i hope one day the organization honours him as such

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Well done, I grew hair like smytty as a kid because I loved him as a player, still to this day my all time favorite oiler. Well written Lowetide.

  • remlap

    I still remember a playoff game against the Avalanche. Late 90s I think it was? I don’t remember exactly, I was fairly young.

    But Smytty was in front of the net, I think screening Patrick Roy. And as the shot from the point is taken, he takes the butt end of his stick, and taps the top of the goalies stick, so that the paddle part that’s covering the 5-hole flips up in the air. Puck slides right through the 5-hole.

    Goalie is livid, Smytty is smiling.

  • geoilersgist

    A true legend. I think some of Smytty is rubbing off on the like of Mr.Samwise. If the young guys can learn anything from him I hope it is his work ethic.

    I almost get teary eyed watching video of that 06 run. We need Smytty circa 2006 again

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Maybe because it’s his most recent accomplishment and I don’t want anyone to think he’s no longer a valuable player…

    LT you should include him Captaining Canada to the Spengler Cup this year. It’s a nice feather in his cap, if not the biggest.

    Also, I have a strong love/hate for his off-wing slappers and wrap-around attempts… I always wonder what he’s thinking: “eventually one will go in” is my guess. And they do… eventually.

  • Spydyr

    First player in the series that is still playing.Fitting as he should be retired.

    Smyth was great for a over a decade before he left. Now not so much. Right now he looks like he is playing beer league so slow and gets tired after four strides.Takes weak shots for bad angels.

    Not sure what they do next season with his spot.Maybe he will retire. Can’t see it though.Hope they bring in a third or fourth liner that is younger, stronger, faster, and meaner.

    It is always tough watching a once great player hang on too long.

    Best ever left winger was Messier the years before he moved to centre.

  • MMAX

    Great Oiler.

    His reduced acceleration and slower speed is noticeable to my eye…gives opp. players that extra half second to execute a play.

    Teaching the younglings how to play around the net and along the boards, that’s how I see his role while he is still playing.

  • 2004Z06

    Greed was the reason Smitty left, not Management. He walked into the dressing room after negotiations and told his teamates that he thought he just made the worst decision of his life by not taking the deal on the table.

    I like Ryan Smyth as much as the next guy, but come on. He made his choice then and his wife made the choice for him to come back to Edmonton.

    He’s no saint.

  • A quote I’ll never forget about Smyth was done by MacT, I think during the 2006 playoffs. I won’t get it right but it was something like “Can’t skate, a muffin shot, not much of a passer…one hell of a hockey player”

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      @ 16 Shredder sums it up for me… “Can’t skate, a muffin shot, not much of a passer…one hell of a hockey player”

      Heart and Soul of the Oilers for more than a decade.

      Still not sure about a banner in the rafters……We don’t want to become the Canucks.

      Personally, I would like a mini Ryan Smyth statue next to the Gretzky statue….but alas…the Smitty statue would have nothing to hoist…

      But Seriously, I would like to see a series of statues in the forier/rotunda of the new downtown areana…and Smitty would be one of them.

      (and a replica of Smitty’s mullet under glass)

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    I think Smyth could still be effective on the Powerplay, play him on the 4th line, PK, and PP this season and next..maybe the one after too

  • Clarence Oveur

    I am one of those who will never forgive Kevin Lowe for that trade. Not only did he send away one helluva good player who was still producing at a good clip, the return for Smyth from the Isles was crap (Nilsson, O’Marra, and the pick that turned into Alex Plante).


  • #ThereGoesTheOilers

    Been reading the Nation for three years, finally made an account today.

    Thank you for doing a profile on Ryan. He is the face of the franchise for me. Here’s hoping he gives us some more glorious playoff memories before he hangs up his skates!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    One aspect of Ryans game that never gets enough credit is his ability to fight. The rage in which Smytty fights with is unmesureable I tell ya.

    Pitty the next bastage that loses his head in Ryan Smyths next scrap.

  • CCostall

    I only hope that there will one day be another Oiler that encompasses what it means to be a true heart and soul player like Smytty.

    I remember the day he was traded like some remember significant events in human history. The presser of him at the airport is forever scarred in my mind. His emotion that day was like someone who had just found out their loved one was gone, and for me that was definitely the case. You can’t fake that kind of emotion. Didn’t see that from Jarome last week…

    His role is obviously reduced on the ice, but don’t think for a moment that it is less in that dressing room. The Oilers haven’t had many ‘winners’ over the past 10 plus years, but Cup or no Cup, the type of heart and desire that Smytty can impart on those young guys can’t be matched by many of those who have raised hockey’s Holy Grail.

    Oiler to the end. One of the greatest to wear the jersey.

  • Gret99zky

    One thing I don’t understand about Smytty is his insistence on using that horrible stick.

    Old and bulky frankenstein-monster-like.

    In spite of today’s technology he chooses to use a piece of equipment that is equivalent of a tennis player using a wooden racket at Wimbledon or a golfer using a wooden driver at Augusta.

    How many goals does he not score because of this bit of stubborness?

  • DonovanMD

    Great read, loved the line about him riding portside with Doug Weight.

    We harp on management a lot these days but back then KLowe had big balls, dealing Smyth hours before having to be on the ice for Mark Messiers banner raising ceremony.

  • DonovanMD

    Smyth is the reason that I became an Oilers fan. Setting up the winner in triple OT of game 3 against the Sharks after taking the puck in the face is probably my favourite Smyth moment. The day we traded him was difficult on so many levels.

  • RexLibris

    When Smyth was traded, he wept.

    When Iginla was traded, well, he kind of smirked through the whole press conference.

    For all the statistical imbalances between the two “faces of the franchise”, I know with which one I’d go to war.

    That 2006 team may have hit above their weight class, but man, did we ever have some good people to cheer for: Smyth, Horcoff, Hemsky, Pisani, Roloson, Markkanen, Ulanov. Some class acts there.

    Thank heaven I have that recent Flames game to think of while I fall asleep, otherwise it’d be another teary night thinking of that one (2006) that got away.

  • RexLibris

    my wife started following the oil during the 2006 run. stopped when smitty was traded.
    Last game I could get her to come to was the first game he played in Edmonton with Colorado. If this rebuild does not work, Katz should take the team to Seattle.

  • RexLibris

    That breakout 39 goal year, I remember looking at the paper, and I think Smytty had a had trick in the first game of the season or something like that. I had to go look him up because I didn’t remember him having much of an impact the year before, and saw that he had already scored more goals in the first game than the entire previous season. I remember thinking, OK, maybe we have a player here. So many Smytty moments since.

    The Dallas series. The international tourneys (people forget that he was one of Canada’s best players this year at the Spengler and that even the big ice couldn’t slow this guy down). I remember Red Wings constantly trying to compare Holmstrom to Smytty (but Holmstrom was never even close to his level). The constant battles around the blue paint and the coy shrugs when the goalies would hack him out of sheer frustration.

    I had the fortune of being in the building in the best game of the 2006 cup run, Game 3 against SJ when a suddenly more toothless Smytty (he lost 4 or so I think in middle period) set up Horcs with a beautiful pass from behind the net in triple OT. Also for the Game 3 GWG Lowetide just put up (I think MacT said about that goal after the game something like – Smyth’s slapshot is the equivalent of a wrister). Also for the fastest hat trick in Oilers’ history (which had the added bonus of shutting up my Calgarian friend who had been giving him and the Oilers a hard time that night) to bring the Oil back from a 2 goal 3rd period deficit to an outright lead.

    He definitely embodies everything us Oilers’ fans expect from a hockey player. And yes you can pin the blame for the contract breakdown on Smyth if you want, but by doing so you would unfortunately be a fool. Unless, however, you are a heartless SOB who didn’t watch a conference where an emotional player vowed to win a hockey championship with another team so he could bring it to Edmonton to celebrate with its fans. He clearly got some bad advice about the ramifications of an unsigned deal and if you are going to talk greed like some idiots are posting, let me ask you this – would you would turn down an extra 750,000 a year to play in a city that had little to no chance of winning a cup, just because you love it in Edmonton? Because even at 5.5 million, that was what Smyth was willing to do – and he got 6.25/yr to play with Joe Sakic in the offseason. So you tell me who was greedy or foolish – him, or K Lowe, who eventually used 3 draft picks and a similar amount of money per season to replace him with pancakes Penner?

    Smyth is a true Oiler, and I couldn’t agree more with Lowetide’s profile. If you want to let Smyth go off into the sunset, you let him do that in the LW role where he started his career, and let him contribute in the only role he has ever known in his career – not as some 4th line grinder centering Mike Brown and Petrell. I refuse to remember him ever being played in this capacity…

  • ubermiguel

    94 makes my all-time Oilers team any day of the week, along with Weight and Guerin, whose stays here were too short.

    ’06 still burns me, too, but I blame MacT for his stupid “rotate the backups” scheme–if Markanen is dressed that night, we still win. I’ll always believe that.

    Also MacT gave no “rally the troops” speech before game 7–said the players should know what to do–huh? What part of “coach” did we miss, MacT? How about “let’s forget it’s their building and play just like last game”, or “they’re on their heels after last game, let’s take it to them early and win this thing”?