That’s it. No seriously ill parents or grandparents. The end of the big homesick.
It was Smyth, saying Los Angeles and his previous stops in Long Island and Denver “were different lifestyles for my wife and family to live in”.
On the media conference call, he first of all thanked the Los Angeles Kings “for accepting my wish to come back and be an Oiler where I first started my career. I’m thrilled and overwhelmed being an Oiler again.
“Everything I went through for the last six weeks was tough and emotional for my wife and I and I’m extremely thrilled to come back to Edmonton,” he said of son Alexander who turned three Sunday and daughters Isabella, 8, and Elizabeth, 6.
Because he was in the interior of B.C., it was clear Smyth had no clue of the overwhelming extent of the out-pouring of love in his direction from fans in Edmonton, fans who were clearly outraged at the idea of him wearing No. 94 for the Calgary Flames as it looked like for a few hours Friday.
“I guess I won’t know until I get to the city. It’s really been pretty exhausting and tiring with everything that went on. It was a pretty emotional ride.”
A town which had the heart and soul of its team torn away when Ryan Smyth was sent away over a dispute over $100,000 with then GM Kevin Lowe on the day of Mark Messier’s banner raising, showed the love and maybe even forced Steve Tambellini to do a deal he didn’t necessarily want to do.
Smyth, in the end, thanked Calgary.
“Hats off to the Flames. They were ready to do it ASAP. They were willing and excited and I thank them for that,” he said of Jay Feaster not being at all tentative.
“It would have been really tough with the Edmonton blood that’s in me,” said Smyth.
In the end the deal was a no-brainer.
No future was sacrificed here. Colin Fraser and a seventh-round draft choice? For Ryan Smyth? Hell yes.
It was a deal which, if Tambellini didn’t do, he’d be facing a furious fan base. These fans suffered through two 30th-place seasons. The least he could give them was the old warrior who wanted to play in Edmonton again at a time when there’s been a severe shortage of veteran NHLers who want to winter here.
As a rule these return-to-complete-your-career-where-it-began stories don’t have happy endings.
The mullet man who has one year left on his contract at $4.5 Million ($6.25 cap hit), has played 16 hard seasons of going into corners, working against the boards and taking all sorts of abuse in his office in front of the net. He went on a 24-game span at the end of the season where he didn’t score a goal and some saw evidence that the end was near.
On the other hand he scored two classic Smytty goals in the playoffs and played well. It should also be pointed out that Smyth produced more points than any Oiler last year.
No. 94 was adamant he isn’t coming home to mop up his career here.
“That’s way far fetched. I got many years left in me. I know I’m older but I’m playing some of my best hockey the last few years. I still have lots to offer. I felt like I was a kid again last year,” he said of playing all 82 games plus playoffs.
“Being around all the young talent in Edmonton is going to push me and make me better. I’m hoping the organization is going to see I want to play there into the future”
With Taylor Hall the No. 1 left winger and Magnus Paajarvi No. 2 for the future and Linus Omark in the picture there as well, it’s the one position where the Oilers have depth.
But pay-the-price veteran, knock-my-teeth-out-and-get-stitched-up-behind-the-bench leadership may be priceless. And Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth riding together again does have possibilities.
So, coach, how you going to work your lines?
“I have no idea,” said Tom Renney.
Renney is definitely happy to have Ryan Smyth to add to the mix.
“Ryan brings a look to our team that’s been missing in the corners and in front of the net. And he’ll certainly be able to share the workload in terms of leadership and show them not only how to be an Oiler but how to be a pro.”
Smyth said he’s a team guy.
“Wherever Tom Renney wants me, I’ll play.”