Smith earned his retirement

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:06 PM ET

EDMONTON — His former teammates wince and shake their heads at the mere mention of his name - each recalling a time and place when then they looked across the dressing room at Jason Smith and wondered if he was even human.

At times it seemed like there was a Terminator under all that blood and tape, an entity that felt no pain and no mercy and wouldn’t stop battling no matter what.

“He was on a different level,” said Oilers defenceman and longtime Smith teammate Steve Staios. “He played through things that you couldn’t really fathom if you were going through it yourself.”

The longest serving captain in Oilers history retired yesterday as an Ottawa Senator, but his best years came during his eight seasons in Edmonton. He arrived from Toronto as an afterthought - acquired for a couple of draft picks - and left as their undisputed leader, helping them to a Cup final and shaping a lot of young players exactly the way you’d want them shaped.

“A great friend, a great person and he had a great career,” said current Oilers captain Ethan Moreau. “He left a lot of his body, and his heart, in Edmonton. We wish him well, he definitely touched a lot of the guys he played with.

“He was a warrior in every sense of the word. Sometimes that expression gets overused, but some of the things I saw him play with ... and a lot of it cut his career short. That’s the legacy he’s going to leave behind, that he ony knew how to play the game one way.”

Hard. Playing through a broken arm in Edmonton and two, count ‘em, two, separated clavicles in Philadelphia, Smith was blood and guts personified. As long as everything was still attached to his body, he was willing to go out there and do battle.

But after 17 NHL seasons and over 1,000 games, the 35-year-old doesn’t have the fire in his gut to play like a Spartan anymore, so he’s not going to play at all.

“This summer, as I was training and working out, I just didn’t feel it,” Smith told his farewell media conference. “I thought about it quite a while. Not like I flipped a coin and made a decision. It’s time to move on. I’m going to spend some time with my family and enjoy it.”

If anyone deserves to take it easy, after all the hard miles he’s put on, it’s him.

The broken arm at the end of Smith’s tenure in Edmonton has become the stuff of legend in the dressing room.

“We knew it was serious because he missed practice,” said Staios. “It was broken, and he was there icing it, getting ready to play the next game. He ended up taping up a broken arm and going out there and playing. He just wouldn’t let up. He didn’t want to let his teammates down, that’s what he was all about.”

When the Oilers needed a timely hit or somebody on the other team needed a slap, Smith was always first in line to deliver them.

“Some of those playoffs against Dallas, the hits he made were some pretty good highlight reels,” said Moreau. “He never wanted the spotlight, never needed a lot of recognition, but when the puck dropped he was a mean guy out there, it was fun to watch him play.”

A monster on the ice, he was glue in the dressing room, too.

“He was the nicest guy I’ve ever met,” said Fernando Pisani. “He was one of those guys who was always in a good mood, always upbeat, loved being around the rink and around the guys. And he played through every kind of injury imaginable. When most guys would have shut it down he kept playing through it, and always had a smile on his face. Never complained.

“He played hard, he played physical, basically played with his heart on his sleeve. He gave it all. That’s how he led. He’s one of those guys you never wanted to let down. You know that if he looked at you and you weren’t giving it your all, that was enough. He didn’t have to say anything.”


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