Smith's a real 'character'

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

If character players help build championship teams, then the Senators have a winner in Jason Smith.

When the Senators signed the 34-year-old defenceman to a two-year, $5.2-million US free-agent contract this summer, they added a guy who'll battle from the time the puck is dropped until the final buzzer -- a guy that would bring leadership to a dressing room that sometimes lacks it.

If you want to know what kind of respect a guy like Smith can get, just ask the Flyers. Only in Philadelphia for one season, Smith was asked to wear the captain's "C."

CONSUMMATE PRO

"He's not just a hockey player, he's a consummate professional and just a wonderful person," said Flyers coach John Stevens. "He was a great addition to our team last year. Whether it's a hard day or an easy day, he loves being at the rink. He's always looking out for the team.

"He's as strong a character guy as you're going to find in the game of hockey. Even on days off, he comes into the rink. He's there early and he's waiting for guys. If somebody is down, he gets them up. He's focused. He plays hurt. He'll do whatever he can do to help the hockey team."

Smith's teammates are going to have to get to Scotiabank Place pretty early if they're going to beat him to the rink.

Married to Wendy and a father of two girls -- Jordan, 12, and Brittney, 9 -- Smith might be dad when he's helping the kids with their homework or attending their gymnastics or swimming classes, but in the Ottawa dressing room he's also going to be a father figure to some of the young players.

GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER

"Coming together as a group is an important part of it," said Smith. "You want to go out and get a chance to know each other. You don't only want that in the room, you want to know what guys do in their spare time and know what they're up to with their families. I think that's a very important part of becoming a team and being together as a group."

So in comes Smith after the Senators jettisoned so-called bad apples Ray Emery and Brian McGrattan out of town.

After being swept in the first round of the playoffs last spring by the Penguins, the Senators talked a lot about bringing in character players who will support captain Daniel Alfredsson.

"I wasn't here last year and I really don't know how things were," said Smith, also a former Oilers captain.

'TURNAROUND'

"But I saw what a turnaround (Philadelphia) made in a year. I know that it can be done. You need to work hard. You need to be accountable to each other.

"You need to work within the system and you've got to fulfil whatever role you are given.

"You can go back and look at every team that has won over the last number of years: They've had players who are happy playing two minutes or happy playing 25. You just have to be prepared to work and be prepared to empty the tank in whatever role you are given."

Stevens said what you see is what you get with Smith, who isn't afraid to hold his teammates accountable if something needs to be said.

"He's genuine. There's nothing that is superficial about him. Guys go to him right away because he cares so much about the group," said Stevens. "He takes a lot of weight off the coaching staff because he can take care of the dressing room and does a great job."

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THE INSIDE

- FAVOURITE MAGAZINE: Sports Illustrated

- MOVIE: Shawshank Redemption

- BAND: Pearl Jam

- SPORT OUTSIDE OF HOCKEY: Football.

- ATHLETE OUTSIDE OF HOCKEY: Tiger Woods

- FOOD: Sushi

- TV SHOW: CSI

- PRE-GAME MEAL: Chicken and pasta


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