If the idea of watching grown men and women cry has little appeal, you’ll want to avoid Edmonton today. Ryan Smyth will cry, and so will we, in our sports cars, in our pickups, in our SUVs, in our offices and in our basements. Ryan Smyth, the kid from Banff who became both icon and every man, is leaving the game forever—and that’s a long, long time.
He takes with him the last wooden hockey stick in captivity, a glorious mullet history, fewer than half of his original teeth, and our hearts. Whatever the skills and elements required to win this city over, Ryan Smyth did that and more moons ago.
Smyth’s association with the Oilers goes back many miles. When he was just a kid, he 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.
- 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.
- Smyth is tied for 1st all-time on the Oilers power-play goal list (with Glenn Anderson) and has one night to score another.
I’ll remember Ryan Smyth as a champion. The modern NHL houses 30 teams, so the odds of winning a Stanley Cup are very low—especially for a man who played most of his career on a middling or lower team. In the opportunities he had to play on competitive teams, Smyth’s Oilers got great results. In 1997, 1998, in 2006. The Oilers won the 2006 pennant, and I think that success should be honored as the last generation would have celebrated a Stanley Cup in the six-team league. Ryan Smyth played in 68 playoff games as an Edmonton Oiler, scoring 21-21-42 in those games.
One suspects the Oilers will offer him employment in the organization, and I hope he takes the job. Power-play coach? Physical winger coach? It is a major irony that the Oilers say goodbye to our Smytty today and will spend another summer looking for a modern version of Smytty yesterday.
Sail on, Banff Blazer. Sail on, Caronport Cougar, sail on Lethbridge Titan, sail on Moose Jaw Warrior. Sail on, Edmonton Oiler.
We knew this day would come, but it doesn’t make it any easier.