Hall of Fame In­duc­tion an Hon­our for For­mer NHLer Smail

Moose Jaw Express.com - - Sports Express -

When Doug Smail was first break­ing into the Na­tional Hockey League with the Win­nipeg Jets dur­ing the 1980-81 season, hockey was in a very dif­fer­ent place com­pared to what it was later in that decade and what we see to­day. Rough-and-tum­ble fight-filled in­tim­i­dat­ing hockey was the or­der of the day. So when the Moose Jaw prod­uct first took to the ice – 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds – well, things were as tough as could be ex­pected.

But the times were chang­ing. The game evolved sud­denly and rapidly and Smail’s style of play fit right in. The end re­sult was a 13-year NHL ca­reer – 11 of those sea­sons with the Win­nipeg Jets – that ended with 210 goals and 459 points in 845 games. So it came as lit­tle sur­prise when it was an­nounced that Smail was one of six in­ductees into the Moose Jaw and District Sports Hall of Fame for 2018. He was en­shrined on the Wall of Fame – lo­cated on the Mo­saic Place sec­ond floor con­course – dur­ing their an­nual in­duc­tion ban­quet on Oct. 20.

“It’s a tremen­dous hon­our; it’s some­thing I never re­ally thought about or con­sid­ered but I’m very, very priv­i­leged,” Smail said prior to the event. “I want to thank all the peo­ple who were re­spon­si­ble for that and there are so many peo­ple who I think de­serve to be on this wall in my opin­ion. So, this is a ter­ri­bly big hon­our.” Smail was quick to give thanks to the Moose Jaw com­mu­nity for help­ing him develop into the kind of per­son who could take the ice and play hockey at the NHL level. That de­vel­op­ment in­cluded two sea­sons with the Moose Jaw Canucks in the SJHL, where he had 60 goals and 116 points in the 1976-77 cam­paign.

“If it takes a vil­lage to raise a child, it takes a city to raise an ath­lete,” Smail said. “Cer­tainly, there were so many peo­ple in my life who’ve had an af­fect on me and my life, in high school and grade school, fam­ily, friends, adopted fa­thers so to speak. A tremen­dous amount of shap­ing was done.” Smail pointed to coaches and men­tors like Roy Ash­worth, John Hunter and Bevin Leipert as im­por­tant fig­ures in his de­vel­op­ment.

“They were three guys who im­mensely shaped my ca­reer, mostly through my life,” he said. “They coached me through some pretty re­bel­lious teenage years and weath­ered the storm on my be­half. I have noth­ing but thanks for those gen­tle­man.”

After a three-year run at the Univer­sity of North Dakota – where he led the Fight­ing Sioux to the NCAA cham­pi­onship in 1980 – Smail signed as a free agent with the Win­nipeg Jets, and stepped into a whole new world of hockey.

“I was a kid from the prairies; I’d had a great ca­reer at North Dakota in col­lege, and I had started ma­tur­ing emo­tion­ally and so­cially and stuff like that when I got to Win­nipeg,” Smail said. “It was close to my fam­ily and it was on the prairies, so I wanted to play there.

“I was a kid pinch­ing him­self ev­ery day for 13 years, and that’s the truth. I felt for­tu­nate to be there. I played with some great ath­letes and great coaches; John Fer­gu­son was there most of my ca­reer and we had a very good re­la­tion­ship... I didn’t even re­al­ize when I got there that they’d given me num­ber nine; it never even clued-in that it was Bobby Hull’s num­ber and then in the first time in a game I was ‘good gosh’. It was all pretty amaz­ing.” Smail’s ar­rival was part of a new era in the NHL, an era that would be filled with high-scor­ing, fast-paced and record-set­ting hockey by the likes of Wayne Gret­zky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier and, of course, Smail’s long-time team­mates Dale Haw­er­chuk and Teemu Se­lanne.

A two-way player him­self, Smail’s best season came 1984-85 when he scored 31 goals and 66 points. He still holds the NHL record for the fastest goal from the start of a game at five sec­onds.

“It was a dif­fer­ent time, the 70s were a very, very phys­i­cal time for hockey and we had the hold overs, so a bunch of us who were skaters at the start of the 80s paid the price for it,” Smail said. “So, we’re thank­ful for Gretz and Mess and the guys on our team and the whole Smythe Divi­sion at the time, we turned the game into a skat­ing game and we just had a fab­u­lous time play­ing. It was a great time to be in hockey.”

Smail had stops in Min­nesota, Que­bec and Ot­tawa be­fore play­ing three sea­sons in the Bri­tish Premier League – in­clud­ing 1993-94 cam­paign where he scored 62 goals and 142 points in 41 games with the Fife Fly­ers.

He now lives in Den­ver and coaches the Mid­get AAA-cal­i­bre Rockey Mountain RoughRid­ers.

Smail was in­ducted into the Hall of Fame along­side base­ball and curl­ing coach Roger An­holt, athletics builder Stan­ley Her­bert ‘Hub’ Gutheridge, na­tional cham­pion fig­ure skater Su­san Humphreys, base­ball coach and ath­lete Jim Baba and hockey and base­ball ath­lete/builder Ge­orge Hunchuk.

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