If TSN’s Bob McKenzie has the story straight – he always does — Ryan Smyth will make his retirement from the Edmonton Oilers and the NHL official as early as Friday afternoon.
I turns out Smyth, 38, won’t go out kicking and screaming and the Oilers equipment staff won’t have to hide his No. 94 jerseys or stash those old-school wooden-bladed sticks of his to get the message across that it might be time to hang them up.
Instead, McKenzie was first with word via Twitter this evening that Smyth would call it a career after 1,270 NHL games (971 of those with the Oilers) – my guess is that’s a decision that was made after a sit-down with GM Craig MacTavish about how the cards might be dealt this off-season.
That would make Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks the swan song in Smyth’s career – a tenure that began Jan. 22, 1995 in a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings. One last time out of the tunnel and three more pucks for fans in the warm-up for a player who has worn the Oil Drop as proudly as anybody ever has.
ONE LAST TIME
I had my doubts Smyth would make this call when I wrote about him just the other day (April 4). Stubborn is Smyth. Always has been and always will be – the career he’s fashioned being Exhibit A – but here we are, it seems, one game from the end.
If the announcement does come tomorrow, I fully expect Smyth to be a mess, just as he was back at the trade deadline in 2007 when he ended up being traded to the New York Islanders by GM Kevin Lowe after contract talks stalled. Heart on his sleeve then. Same now. Smyth loves this team. He loves this city. Never a doubt about that.
With yet another miserable season by the Oilers almost in the books, I’m convinced Oiler fans will mark the end of an era and a terrific career by giving Smyth a rousing send-off against the Canucks Saturday. A break from the drudgery, in the last game of the season no less, would be welcome, no?
A lot of fans were suggesting tonight they’d be up for seeing Andrew Ference give up the captain’s C so Smyth can wear it in his final game as an Oiler against the Canucks. Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun said he’s be on board with that. A nice gesture, if it happens, I suppose.
All I know is this: Smyth has spent most of his NHL career wearing an Edmonton jersey and being as proud as you can imagine that he’s had that opportunity. Saturday, fans get one last chance to show him the feeling is mutual. Last call.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.