- Brad Smith (ice hockey)
Brad Smith (born
April 13, 1958in Windsor, Ontario) is a retired professional ice hockeyplayer who played 222 games over nine National Hockey Leagueseasons with the Vancouver Canucks, Atlanta Flames, Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings, and Toronto Maple Leafs. He was also a member of the Central Hockey League's Adams Cupwinning Dallas Blackhawks, 1978–79.
Described as a heady, defensive forward known for his physical play in
William Houston's book, The Rise and Fall of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Smith led his hometown Windsor Spitfiresin scoring with 37 goals and 90 points during his rookie OHA season, 1976–77. The following year he was traded to the Sudbury Wolvesfor Wes Jarvis. Registering 80 goals and 172 points in 136 OHAgames, Smith was selected by Vancouver 57th overall in the 1978 NHL Entry Draft. During his first intrasquad game, he scored twice and got into a fight with Dennis Kearns. Sent to the CHL's Dallas Blackhawkswhere he scored 17 times in 60 games in 1978–79, Smith earned a two-game call-up to the parent club.
The following year, 1979–80, he spent 19 games with Vancouver, scoring his first NHL goal, a game-winner, against the
Colorado Rockieson December 14, 1979. He also played for Vancouver in an international game on Dec. 26, 1979 during which he led the Canucks to a 6–2 victory, scoring twice within 17 seconds (both slapshots) against Moscow Dynamogoaltender, Vladimir Myshkin(who shut out the NHL All Stars the previous year to win the Challenge Cupfor the Soviet National Teambefore winning Olympic Gold in 1984).
On Feb. 8, 1980, Smith and
Don Leverwere traded to Atlanta for Darcy Rotaand Ivan Boldirev. Smith played four games for Atlanta before the team relocated for the 1980–81 season, where he became an original Calgary Flame. On Dec. 27, 1980, Smith scored the game-winning goal on a two-on-nothing, give-and-go breakaway with fellow journeyman Alex McKendryto beat Philadelphia 2–1. In all, Smith scored seven goals over 45 games with Calgary before he was sent down to the Birmingham Bullsof the CHL. There, he registered 11 points in 10 games before the Bulls folded abruptly on Feb. 20, 1981. Eight days later, Smith was on the move again, this time to Detroit, where he was traded for Rick Vasko, scoring 5 goals in 20 games for his highest NHL season total of 12.
Splitting the next four years between Detroit and its farm team, Smith was named an
American Hockey LeagueAll-Star after registering 72 points with the Adirondack Red Wingsin 1984–85. Playing the final game of the season with Detroit, Smith scored, then suited up for the play-offs, setting up a goal by John Ogrodnickand fighting Al Secord. After five years in the Detroit organization, Smith then turned down a contract offer to test the free-agent market. Signed instead by Toronto, "Motor City Smitty," as he was nicknamed by then Leafs' radio man Bill Waters, enjoyed his most productive years on hockey's biggest stage, Maple Leaf Gardens. During the 1985–86 season, Smith registered a career NHL high 17 assists to go along with his five goals over 42 games, and was nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL player best exemplifying perseverance and dedication. He also had an excellent play-off showing, scoring twice (one of which involved a lesson in geometry as he shot from the corner, banking the puck off St. Louis Bluesgoaltender Greg Millen's pads and into the net) and adding an assist in six post-season games.
Also of note, in game two of that second-round series, Smith chased an errant puck and Blues' defenceman
Lee Norwoodinto the corner, taking Norwood hard into the boards. Norwood responded by sucker punching Smith from behind, and essentially poking Smith in the eye with the thumb of his glove. As Smith felt for blood, looking at his hand, Norwood punched Smith from behind again. The gratuitous clip made Late Night with David Letterman. More importantly, Toronto scored the winning goal on the ensuing power play and got back into the series. Smith's shiner, meanwhile, became the local rallying point on the front pages of Toronto newspapers, while Hockey Night in Canadabegan coverage of game three with a live close-up of Smith's eye under the harsh studio lights.
Coached in Toronto by
Dan Maloneyand John Brophyrespectively, Smith's skills were best utilized with the Maple Leafs, where his key role was to "change the pace of the game." Called "a whirling dervish" by Brophy, Smith could stray from a disciplined checking role at the flip of a switch, leaving his wing, generally skating all over the ice, and playing what Brophy termed a "helter-skelter" style designed to throw the opposition's systems into chaos -- a trait that would eventually get Smith's name on the Stanley Cup.
Fights were a big part of Smith's game, and while one of hockey's last 11 helmetless warriors seldom won, he seldom lost, holding his own against the likes of
Clarke Gillies, Stan Jonathan, "Mad Dog" Bob Kelly, Joey Kocur, Lindy Ruff, and Glen Cochrane. As a Maple Leaf, Smith faced his former team, the Red Wings, on Nov. 15th, 1986 in Toronto, fighting Gerrard Gallanton the opening face-off, then going on to drop the gloves three more times that game. So distracted were the Wings by their former teammate that Toronto was up 6–0 by the time Smith was ejected and served with 57 minutes, etching his name in Maple Leaf history as the most penalized Leaf in a single game. It was also Toronto's most penalized game in franchise history. Smith was again a stalwart play-off performer in 1986–87, scoring a game-winning breakaway goal to clinch Toronto's 1987 opening-round series win over the St. Louis Blues on April 16th of that year. At that point, the Leafs had not won a best-of-seven play-off series since 1978, and they would not win another play-off series period until 1993, making Smith's goal, arguably, the most important over a span of 15 years in Toronto Maple Leafs history.
While in Toronto, Smith also set up goals for
Wendel Clarkto both tie and surpass the Leafs' rookie goal-scoring mark on March 3, 1986 against the Winnipeg Jets, a game in which Smith deployed a remarkable behind-the-back pass to set up Clark's second goal of the game, an open-netter to break the record. Earlier, Smith picked an errant Winnipeg pass out of the air with his stick to set up the drive in which Clark tied the mark. Ironically, Smith's playing career ended in the fall of 1987 following a hit by Clark during an intrasquad training camp game. Having just signed a three-year contract, Smith eventually retired as a result of the back injury, running a charter-fishing business before returning home to Windsor in 1989 to coach the Spitfires for two-and-half years. After returning the Spits to respectability, Smith joined the Edmonton Oilersscouting staff in 1991, serving under Glen Sather. At the start of the 1995–96 season, Smith became a scout for the Colorado Avalanche. There, he enjoyed perhaps his finest moment, deconstructing Scotty Bowman's left-wing lock during the 1996 play-offs and neutralizing it as Colorado beat the favoured Red Wings and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
"Smith noticed the Red Wings' left wingers, who stayed back to help the defense, were small," The Sporting News reported. "So the Avalanche made sure to softly dump the puck into the right corner, where the Avs' forwards pounced. This wore down Detroit's left wingers."
Colardo won the series, and by the time the Avs swept Florida in the finals, Detroit GM Ken Holland was also publicly crediting Smith with that key assist in Colorado's successful run. The Avalanche won another cup in 2001, and Smith's name is now engraved on Lord Stanley's mug. He currently serves as the Avalanche Director of Player Personnel.
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