SMYTTY: OLD SCHOOL

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I’ve always had a soft spot in my hard, old heart for Ryan Smyth, so I smiled today when the Edmonton Oilers announced he was the team’s nominee for the 2014 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

While the Masterton certainly isn’t one of the major pieces of silverware handed out at the end of each NHL season, it’s an award that fits the mulleted Banff boy with the Oil Drop tattooed on his backside like a glove.

The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, is presented annually to the NHL player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

Describes No. 94 perfectly.

THE MEASURE

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Perseverence? Like overcoming a badly broken ankle to will himself into the 2002 Olympics with Team Canada when nobody thought the screws and plates would mend him soon enough to give him any chance to play in Salt Lake? Mercy, he worked his backside off to make it to Utah.

Like spitting out teeth and blood in Edmonton’s remarkable run to the 2006 Stanley Cup final after taking a wayward puck in the yap at Rexall Place and barely missing a shift? In that post-season, Smyth produced seven goals and nine assists in 24 games.

Dedication? Like playing 1,265 regular season games and 93 more in playoffs because he’s been willing to work harder than the next guy and take a beating to play the game he has to play to be successful? How’d he score 386 regular season goals and 28 more in playoffs with that shot? “I ain’t moving. You can’t make me.” That’s how. And those 126 power-play goals, tying him with Glenn Anderson for the franchise lead?

Sportsmanship? Smyth has never asked for an inch or given one out on the ice. The punishment he’s taken over the years is mind-boggling. Never, in all the years I covered the team on a daily basis, from the time he walked in as a rookie in 1994-95 until he left in 2007, did I hear Smyth speak with anything but the utmost respect for his opponents – many of whom went out of their way to beat him senseless. Not just on the record, but off.

The lost teeth and the spilled blood and the broken bones have always just been part of the game. No big deal. The price you pay. Give the other guy hell with everything you’ve got, expect the same back and let the cards fall where they will. Old school.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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Smyth, now 38, faces the Phoenix Coyotes with 10-13-23 in 67 games this season. He’s clearly lost a step he couldn’t afford to lose and most of the talk about him now is that he’s at the end of the line and that it’s time for him to hang up his blades and call it a career. I suggested the very same thing a year ago, April 17. Fat chance.

The only way that’ll happen is if the Oilers tear the jersey off his back and refuse to give him another contract at the end of this season. Of course Smyth believes he’s got more left to give, that he can play another year. You’d expect anything else? He’s the same rink rat he was 20 years ago.

Smyth doesn’t need the game – he has made more than $55 million playing in the NHL, invested wisely and has all the money he, his children and his grandchildren to come can ever spend. He loves the game.

Whether Smyth should stay or go is a debate for another day. You can certainly make a case the time has come. Of course, Smyth cares as much what you and I think about that as he did about Derian Hatcher mugging him in front of the net all those years. Bupkis.

“Perseverence, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” Whether Smyth wins the 2014 Masterton or not, today’s nomination made me pause and smile. He is the epitome of all those qualities.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Waynethetrain….. took the words right out of my mouth.!

    Smythy, time to hang em up. Let some up and commers get some experience on this home stretch.

    No one recalled Anderson’s records, and certainly would not yours. PS.. how can you score a deflection when theres no one blasting at the net.

    Glad to see the Masterton nom.. grab the trophy if you can and call it a day.

    You should not be part of a rebuild moving to next year.

  • J.R.

    I agree with every word in your article R.B.

    I know many will disagree but I have seen a pretty solid game from him anytime he wasn’t forced to play center.

    I also think HHOF or no HHOF he should have his jersey raised to the rafters.

    I’d also sign him to play one more year.

    I’m totally biased but saw him good more often than not this year.

    Ryan Jones out Ryan Smyth in.

    One more time.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Smytty only has 27 blocked shots this season. The amount of time he plays on the PK you think he would have more. And I cant stand the amount of time he plays on the powerplay chasing some insignificant record. The commentators say how he’s one of the few who’s willing to go in front of the net. that’s a load of trash, he cant even deflect the puck anymore and his 175 pounds isn’t exactly a big frame screening in front. Id much rather have someone who is big but can still be an option for a pass. His just too many steps behind now.

    • The Last Big Bear

      You sir are either just fishing for comments or you are a damn fool. Smytty has never shied away from getting in front of the puck, this year or any other, whether it be to block it or deflect it. He has taken more punishment over the years for his style of play than the rest of the team combined. Smyth has never been a big player, but has excelled against much larger competition due to the characteristics outlined in Brownlee’s article. As far as your comment about the insignificant powerplay record, shame on you. The amount of punishment and sacrifice he has gone through for this team, and the years of hard work and dedication he has given the Oilers, a bit of powerplay time to try and break a record is not only well deserved, it is owed to him. It’s one of the few reasons left to watch this year, beyond the first line of late and goaltending (I for one refuse to watch just to see if they get a better draft pick). Anyway, go Smytty, hope you get it tonight!

    • “The commentators say how he’s one of the few who’s willing to go in front of the net. that’s a load of trash . . .”

      I guess commentators are just making things up for fun. Anybody who suggests with a straight face Smyth doesn’t go to the net isn’t paying attention or is just looking for a reaction by making the comment. That would be you.

      The amount of time Smyth plays on the power play “chasing some insignificant record” is 2:31 a game, which puts him sixth among Oiler forwards.

  • Craig1981

    Props on this read Brownlee. I take offense when anyone here posts any hate on him because of the team struggles. He bleeds for his team and his fans, always giving everything he has. I wish 100% of fans respected this, but I will take the 95+% that do!

  • Thumby

    The only thing I will miss from smyth is his consistency of offensive zone penalties…oh and his physical presence. And maybe his constant falling every time he is touched… Would of had the upmost respect for him if he retired after his 2011-2012 season. He was actually effective then. He is just way too slow now.

    • Craig1981

      I knew an old farmer once. He had this amazing loyal border collie that would fetch and herd cattle. When she turned 6 he got a new pup trained it and shot the old dog cause “she was past her prime”…..didn’t even bury her, just left her for the coyotes. Did the same to the next dog. Don’t know why by your comments on an article commemorating everything a person has done for his team reminded me of this.