Smyth ready to give it all for the Maple Leaf
Friday, 24 August 2007
Originally published on IIHF.com in 2002
By Lucas Aykroyd
“Man can be defeated but not destroyed. Man can be destroyed but not defeated.” This was one of author Ernest Hemingway’s favorite sayings, and it would come as no surprise if Ryan Smyth of the Edmonton Oilers had it painted on his wall.
The gritty left wing has experienced the sorrow of defeat in his club’s annual playoff confrontations with the Dallas Stars and at the last three IIHF World Championships. But Smyth has proven himself a solid performer every time he steps on the ice, accumulating five goals and 11 assists in his last 26 international appearances with Team Canada.
And just when it appeared that the Banff native’s Olympic dream had been destroyed by the fractured ankle he suffered in a November 16 game against Chicago, Smyth dug down deep and found the strength to rehabilitate and make an amazing return to the ice on January 2.
The 6-1, 195-pound assistant captain finished the month with a total of 12 goals and 18 assists in 34 games, including five game-winning tallies. Interestingly, Smyth holds the distinction of being the only NHL player ever
to twice score all three goals in a 3-0 win. IIHF.com’s Lucas Aykroyd recently interviewed Smyth to get his thoughts on the next chapter soon to be written in Canadian hockey history.
IIHF.com: What goes through a player’s mind with two weeks to go before your Olympic tournament starts?
Ryan Smyth: Obviously it’s a great feeling. You’re really excited for the time to come, but first and foremost you have to take care of business with your NHL team. You have to keep your adrenalin inside until the day comes.
IIHF.com: When you broke your ankle, how long was it before you started feeling optimistic that you would make it to Salt Lake City?
Smyth: I think it was when I got the call [December 15]. That was a huge excitement for me. That gave me daylight. It was an incentive for me to work harder to get back.
IIHF.com: What do you think made Wayne Gretzky and Kevin Lowe decide to give you that vote of confidence and put you on the team?
Smyth: Obviously they like how I play: a little gritty, board battles, in front of the net and all that stuff. They like my assets. With an injury you’re always concerned: can you get back to that level? But they were positive right through it, and I had to be positive right back.
IIHF.com: You have more recent international experience than anyone on Team Canada after playing in the last three World Championships. What lessons have you learned?
Smyth: I’ve learned a great deal. You play with new players and in different arenas with different rules over there. It’s an experience in itself. You take all those things in, and obviously you would love to be part of a medal in the medal round. It was unfortunate we didn’t get there.
IIHF.com: It seems like Canadian teams have had a tough time scoring key goals at clutch time the last few years. Why do you think that is?
Smyth: I don’t know. Maybe guys have been tightening up. It’s a matter of going out there and relaxing and playing your style, bringing your assets to the team.
IIHF.com: It’s got to be a little weird for you. You rely on Tommy Salo to make the big saves every night for the Oilers and now you must be hoping he can’t stop a beach ball in your first game against Sweden.
Smyth: [laughs] Obviously there are some players from our teams that are going over to play for their respective countries. They’re going to do their best, and obviously it’s great to play against your teammates, because you can tell the other Canadian boys how each guy prepares himself, where his strengths and weaknesses are!
IIHF.com: One of your key rivals has to be the Czechs.
Smyth: Well, the Czechs have obviously established themselves in the past. They know what it takes to win. It’s not going to be easy for anyone. A lot of teams elevate their play when they get the experience of the medal round.
IIHF.com: You’re going to be on the same side as Ken Hitchcock for a change next month. What was your reaction when you heard Dallas let him go?
Smyth: Obviously he’s a winning coach, and he’s experienced a lot during the duration he was with Dallas. This Oilers team has experienced a lot with him there, too! It was shocking to me at first.
IIHF.com: What does Team Canada need to do to bring home the gold?
Smyth: We’ve got to come together quickly as a team and be able to regroup. Hopefully it happens at an early stage so that when the playoff round comes, we’re really prepared.