RALEIGH -- He'd waited longer than anybody in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room for his shot at a Stanley Cup in copper and blue.
Just like that, after two months of playoffs, plenty of sweat and blood and a 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, it was gone.
It's no surprise, then, Ryan Smyth was red-eyed and weary when he faced reporters last night with the triumphant Hurricanes still whooping it up nearby.
"It hurts," Smyth said. "You want to be on that other side and holding that Cup, but I'm proud of every player in that locker room. I'd go to war with them again."
Smyth, 30, had himself an outstanding playoff, going deeper into the post-season than he'd ever been since arriving in the NHL as a raw rookie from Moose Jaw of the WHL in 1994.
He finished with 7-9-16, but he'd happily trade every point for what the Hurricanes held in their hands last night.
"There's no question we're proud of what we accomplished," said Smyth, who might find more comfort in that assessment a few days from now than he did last night. "An eighth seed going as far as we did, just not as far as we wanted to ...
"If Game 1 would've gone the way we would have liked, it might have been a whole new series, but it's over and done with."
An Oiler fan growing up in Banff, Smyth longed as much as anybody to write a new chapter, as he put it earlier this week, and add to the storied history of the only NHL team he's played for. Not now. Not yet.
"I look back at those old Oilers teams," Smyth said. "You want to take the positives that we've gained and build from that.
"You never know if this will be the same team (next season) or what, but the fact is we've got a lot of core players who know what it takes now to get to this level."