Another era of Edmonton Oilers history is about to come to an end on Saturday night.
On Thursday TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that Ryan Smyth had announced his retirement after 18 NHL seasons and would play his final game this Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks at Rexall Place.
It is perfect that the career of one of the ultimate leaders in Oilers history gets to end his career with the team and in the building where he became an icon to so many people in the hockey world.
To me and to many others he’s one of the last connections to an era of a team that was the epitome of the “blood, sweat and tears” Oiler players that had to go to war every single night to get the two points as the feisty underdogs.
Smyth was drafted in 1994 by the Oilers and grew up a lifelong fan, he had a 39 goal season with the team during the 1996-97 season where they stunned the Dallas Stars in 7 games in their first round playoff match up.
Smyth showed how much of a warrior he was by playing through injuries, one of the greatest moments in franchise history is of him during the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs losing teeth from a bad clearance attempt by Chris Pronger against San Jose, but coming back in the same game (Game 3 of the Western Conference Semi finals) to set up the triple overtime winner by Shawn Horcoff.
in the modern NHL, Edmonton is a city that not many players want to get traded to and are glad to leave. Smyth was the opposite, breaking down crying at the Edmonton International Airport on deadline day in 2007 after being traded to the New York Islanders.
#94 was a dude that loved where he played, he always wanted to be an Oiler and it never looked quite right seeing him playing for New York, Colorado and the LA Kings.
Offensively, Ryan Smyth ranks near the top for almost every single team stat with the Oilers, he’s 6th all time in points, 5th all time in goals and is 2nd all time in games played.
Smyth is also tied for the most power play goals as an Oiler with Glenn Anderson with 126 so Saturday will be the last chance for him to possibly have that mark all to himself.
On Saturday he deserves a standing ovation from the fans, to the Canucks, to the media and to the guy serving up hot dogs at one of the Rexall Place vendor stands.
He didn’t win a Stanley Cup nor any major league awards but he was the full embodiment of what an Edmonton Oiler should be.
Wouldn’t it be something if #94 was painted behind the nets on Saturday? On Hockey Night in Canada? Maybe former teammates are flown in the for the pre game ceremony.
With current captain Andrew Ference not expected to play in the season finale why not let Ryan Smyth wear the C? Truly give Ryan a night that he will never ever forget as he says goodbye to the league.
Twitter has already run with this idea and the hashtag #SmyttyForCaptain was trending on Twitter in Canada.
Smyth among Oiler fans has always been talked about with the utmost amount of respect, he’s one of the most polite NHLers you will meet, he has done incredible work for charities in Edmonton. He’s given out who knows how many pucks to kids over the years during the pre game skate.
Growing up in Edmonton in the late 90s and early 2000s I wasn’t alive to see the glory days of Gretzky, Fuhr, Messier and others. By the time I became a hockey fan in my youth they were in the twilight of their careers but Ryan Smyth was just in the start of his.
The Oilers I first admired would out hit you and out work you, no matter if it was game 1 of the regular season or game 7 of a playoff series.
Smyth, Mike Grier, Todd Marchant, Doug Weight, Curtis Joseph, Sean Brown and Janne Niimimaa, these were the dudes that were my heroes as a tyke.
Thank you Ryan for 18 incredible seasons playing this game. Thank you Ryan for giving 194% on every shift. Thank you Ryan for bleeding Orange (Copper for a few years) and Blue.
Question gang: if a pro baseball team were to return to Montreal would you cheer for a new version of the Expos?
By Avry Lewis-McDougall
The first and most likely only year of playing for the Kansas Jayhawks for Andrew Wiggins came to an end this week with their to 60-57 loss to Stanford this past weekend in the round of 32 in March Madness.
Freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins was kept in check by Stanford as he went 1-6 shooting wise and ended with just 4 points on the night.
There is chatter that the loss in the round of 32 may affect the draft stock of Wiggins and people are wondering if he truly is going to be able to live up to the hype in his career.
I for one think that his draft stock is still incredibly high, especially to teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and to the Milwaukee Bucks, two teams who desperately could use a dynamic scorer like him.
Wiggins in his first year at Kansas led the team in scoring, steals, minutes played, and field goals. His game can only go up in the coming years.
Kansas for many was a team that was seen as being able to make the final four or win the National title so a loss in the round of 32 is surprising but not the end of the world.
Many great players in NBA history were great college players and never won an NCAA national title, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and Chris Webber to name a few.
Wiggins is only 19, his game is still developing we have no idea of how good he truly can be yet. Is the hype sensationalized to an incredible extent with the young man dubbed Maple Jordan? Yes but the over the top hype would have been the exact same for great players in any era if a giant collection of YouTube mix tapes and high school games being shown on National TV were available 20-30 years ago.
There is on the flip side people talking about him growing from this and also his name in the tournament does nothing but help the profile of Canadian basketball right now. 27 Canadians took part in March Madness this year, the stigma that Canadians can’t be gamebreakers in basketball is dying in a big way.
Along with Wiggins there have been Canadian players like Tyler Ennis on Syracuse, Nick Stauskas on Michigan and Melvin Ejim on Iowa State who are playing big minutes and have been massive contributors to their teams.
The 2013-14 Kansas Jayhawks season has shown us that Wiggins is capable at pure brilliance on the court, he had a 41 game this season, we’ve seen him on constant highlight reels for his dunks, this was just chapter 1 of his story.
He’s not going to plummet out of the top 10 of the NBA Draft or anything like that, he may not go #1 but being that first pick does not always guarantee a prosperous NBA career as we’ve see with players like Sam Bowie and Kwame Brown.
The critics need to let him figure his game out and grow, this is a teenager figuring out how to adjust to new levels of basketball and so far he’s making us all pay attention to his game.