Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Gator





News that Jason Smith has retired today.

Smith is one of my alltime favourite Oilers. He personified those young clubs that had a ton of heart and grit. He was a banger and a shot blocker and yet in seven plus years with Edmonton he missed a total of forty four games, never more than fourteen in a season. He was beyond tough.

Plus he had an awesome nickname.

So respected was he that when he went to the Flyers they named him their captain immediately. That spring he reportedly played through two separated shoulders in the playoffs.

Last year I watched an Ottawa game and when Kaleta, a Sabres pest, took a run at Alfredsson, Smith immediately moved in. The kid turned his back at the last minute and Smith showed his respect for the game by slowing up and actually cradling his opponent to the ice slowly rather than driving him into the boards dangerously.

Then he beat the shit out of him.

I saw a YouTube video of Smith a couple of years back and at one point an opponent was yapping and Smith said nothing but with a look that was full of cold malice:

try me. try me.

His offer was declined.

Smith won a gold as a World Junior and captained Albany to the Calder Cup. As a junior he was on the all rookie team, was named a first team allstar and won the Bill Hunter award as the top defenceman in the WHL.

He wasn't the swiftest skater. He didn't have a big shot. He was a guy who banged it off the glass and out more often than not but its not a coincidence that since he was traded that this club has gone from having a reputation as a tough club to play against to being a bunch of softies.

He almost accepted the Stanley Cup for the Edmonton Oilers after that brilliant 2006 run where he and Pronger did it all against the opposition's best.

Remember the brilliant goal he scored against San Jose pictured above?

He was the longest serving captain in Oiler history. Here's hoping that they find a way to honour a guy who left it all out on the ice every night, who was a glorious example of an old time hockey player, who deserved better in 2006. Here's hoping for a retirement spent with few nagging aches and pains and much red wine, cold beer and good steak, happy times with family and plenty of awesome sex with his wife.

Thanks for the memories Gator.

11 comments:

mattwatt said...

I really want to write something poetic, strong and gripping for Jason Smith, yet the only thing coming to mind is a line from Griswold's Christmas Vacation: "She's a beauty, ain't she Clark."

Gator, you were the definition of grit.

Dennis said...

I love that guy. I even had a hard time criticizing him for those awful icings he'd make where he'd get within five feet of centre ice and them inexplicably dump the puck without taking the last necessary stride.

I remember the first playoffs he toiled for the Oil and the guy had no respect for his body whatsoever.

I remember feeling really bad for him while watching him with the Flyers in the '08 playoffs and I'm glad he's getting out before it gets any worse.

Traktor said...

Gator was always underpaid and he never cashed in on a huge deal so I have to give him huge respect for leaving 2.6 million on the table.

Most players would have mailed it in for the season and collected a nice retirement sum but Gator always gave 100% so in a way its not all that surprising that he decided to hang 'em up.

I'll miss his one-armed clothesline hits and watching him slide all over the ice trying to block passing lanes/shots/ect. The guy probably shovels his driveway in the winter by sweeping a hockey stick back and forth.

HBomb said...

One of my absolute all-time favorite Oilers. The current edition of the Oil could use a player like Jason Smith circa 2006 right about now.

I actually had a debate a couple years ago as to whom I was going to crest my 2004 Oilers 3rd jersey (complete with 25th anniversary patch) with - I ended up choosing Ethan Moreau over Gator (based on his fantastic play down the stretcch - I was a huge Moreau fan five years ago, funny how things change), and given how lousy a captain 18 has been the past couple seasons, I am considering paying the $100 to have the jersey re-crested to #21.

Great tribute befitting of a great Oiler, Pat.

R-Gib said...

Gator was fantastic. This guy personified the Oilers (along with that other Smyth guy) for a long time for me. It was players like him that brought me back from dead as an Oiler fan in the 90s.

Pat, I forgot all about that goal against SJ! Beauty clutch play. Here it is in a game summary clip. See Gator's goal at 2:40.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading a quote one time, don't recall if it was MacT or not, that said "he has a higher pain threshold than a cadaver".....definitely one of the toughest Oiler's of all time!

jdrevenge said...

BD You don't happen to remember what the clip was called hey!? That pretty much personified the guy. I will always remember him for scoring huge goals once or twice a year. Playing through missing limbs and sticking up for whoever against whoever. I'd second RB in saying that IF I could be a pro hockey player I'd be Jason Smith.

Black Dog said...

jdrevenge - I think it may have actually been posted at Hot Oil but I can't say for sure; it was Youtube, one of those deals where he was miked for a few games and they just put it all together

thanks R-Gib, that was amazing stuff

jdrevenge said...

found er. beauty from smytty 2 minutes in as well. man i miss those guys.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bak2eoqJg3s

Olivier said...

Well, that one's pretty nice.

Hah. Got it; around 3:45 here

Black Dog said...

Great stuff guys.

Do those commentators on the Pens/Flyers game ever suck though. Wow.