Smyth plays for love of the game

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

STONY PLAIN -- Thirty-three years old. Blind in one eye.

Playing for one of the tougher drill sergeants in hockey.

GREAT BIG LOOPY GRIN

And wearing a great big loopy grin after each game that lets everyone around him know that he considers himself lucky, no matter what the situation or conditions, to be able to play.

He's a Smyth, all right.

One look at Kevin's determination on the ice and enthusiasm off it should give you a pretty good idea who was setting the example for young Ryan back in the minor hockey days.

"I've loved it since I was a kid and that hasn't changed one bit," said the Bentley Generals' alternate captain, who scored their fourth goal in a 4-1 victory over Lloydminster yesterday in the opening game of the 2007 Allan Cup in Stony Plain.

"This is an exciting time. A great tournament. I think everybody who's here, because they fought so hard to get here, really wants it."

In a tournament that has always been about the love of the game, Kevin Smyth could be the poster boy.

It's been over 10 years since he was hit in the eye with a puck in a minor league game in Indianapolis. The low point shot deflected off a stick and smashed directly into his right eye socket, slicing through his eyelid and cutting open his eyeball.

Hours of surgery couldn't repair the damage. The vision in his right eye was gone.

Now, that's where most guys would have packed it in for good.

But this is a Smyth, remember. The fourth-round pick of the Hartford Whalers in 1992 had to cut the NHL career short (just 58 games), but walk away from hockey?

No chance.

Months after the accident he returned to the Orlando Solar Bears (IHL), then played for the Tacoma Sabre Cats (WCHL), the Las Vegas Thunder (IHL) and Idaho Steelheads (WCHL).

Eleven years and five teams after he was supposed to retire, he's leading by example in Bentley.

"I still don't see out of the one eye at all, but that's the way it's been since the accident, so I'm pretty used to it," he said, adding he never once thought about quitting. "I just have a passion for it."

He's having the time of his life, getting to play for head coach Brian Sutter, with his other brother Jared as a teammate and occasional linemate.

"Any time you can play with your brother, it's special," said Kevin, a big, imposing winger. "Especially Jared, I never got to play with him growing up.

"Ryan and I were closer in age so we got to play a little bit together. Jared and I never did.

"So this is obviously a pleasure. He's a heck of a hockey player.

'SUTTERS INSPIRATIONAL'

"And when we were growing up, the Sutters were inspirational for the Smyths. They had six and we had three and we all wanted to follow in their footsteps. So to have him coaching us now is an honour."

Jared, 27, says playing alongside a big brother like Kevin is something special.

"I probably wouldn't have kept playing when I moved back to Red Deer if Kevin wasn't on the team," he said. "This has been a lot of fun. (Kevin) really enjoys the game. He's been in the NHL so he knows what it takes. He comes to play.

"He doesn't say much, he just goes out and leads by example. When he's playing strong everyone is going to follow along."

Sounds like a former Oiler we used to know.

"He is a presence, no question about it," said Sutter. "He's a key guy on our team."

---

ALLAN CUP

AT STONY PLAIN ARENA

YESTERDAY

Bentley 4, Lloydminster 1

Whitby 3, Stony Plain 3

TODAY

4:30 p.m. - Halifax vs Bentley

8 p.m. -Shawinigan at Whitby

TOMORROW

4:30 p.m. -Lloyminster vs Halifax

8 p.m. -Stony Plain vs Shawinigan

THURSDAY

Quarterfinals - 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

FRIDAY

Semifinals - 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

SATURDAY

Final - 7:30 p.m.


Videos

Photos