Gator rolls with punches

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

Jason Smith has doled out enough hits that he knows how to take one, too.

So when Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe blindsided the longest serving captain in team history with a trade to Philadelphia, Smith hardly flinched, even though it hurt like hell.

Toughness has always been his calling card.

"That's how it goes," sighed the 33 year old. "It's a tough day, but you look forward to the future. That's the way she goes."

Maybe, but nobody expected she'd go like this.

"I had no real idea anything was coming. You hear the rumours, but you never know what's true and what's not true. It's kind of a surprise. I was on the beach here in L.A. with the kids and that was the turning point of my day, I guess."

He's going to a team that's pulling out every possible stop to build a winner, but leaving Edmonton, which had become his home, is the hardest thing he's had to do in a long, long time.

"There's obviously disappointment when you leave a team with as many good friends as I have, and my wife has, and with as good a staff as we had here, the trainers, everything. I have nothing but good things to say. But I know how the league works and I'm looking forward to another challenge.

"I really would have liked to stay in Edmonton for a lot of years, but we'll regroup, move on and do what I do in Philly."

News of the deal came in a brief conversation with Lowe.

"We had a casual conversation. He was pretty honest, very complimentary. I thanked him and Mac for the opportunity I was given in Edmonton. I had a lot of fun playing there. They said they appreciate what I brought to the team. That was how it went. That's the way the game goes, changes are made. It wasn't the first and it won't be the last."

He has some some awfully fond memories of the place.

"Absolutely. From the time I got there, back when I was playing with Douggie Weight and Billy Guerin, to a whole different group of guys and the run we had two years ago, a great stretch of hockey. I had a great time bringing my kids up in that city, it was a great atmosphere, playing in front of great fans. It was a lot of fun."

Smith, struggling to get his career started in new Jersey and Toronto, flourished in Edmonton, becoming the undisputed team leader.

"Edmonton was a great new start for me," he said. "When I got moved from Toronto to Edmonton it was like a breath of fresh air. I got an opportunity to play and become a better player and a better person and I'm looking to continue to do that, to grow as a player and have a lot of fun playing hockey. "


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