Mike Smith (ice hockey, born 1945)
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Michael A. Smith (born 1945 in Potsdam, New York) is an American hockey executive who was best known for his stints as general manager of the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks teams in the National Hockey League (NHL). He was also associate general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Beginnings in hockey
Smith earned a bachelor of science degree in social sciences at Clarkson University, where he also played hockey. He then transferred to Syracuse University where he earned a doctorate in sociology. After his graduation, he pursued his first job in hockey after being appointed the head coaching job at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse before his hiring in the Winnipeg Jets front office.
In 1979, Smith had his first job with the Winnipeg Jets, when he was hired as coach of the Tulsa farm team. He would spend fourteen years in the Jets organization. He became director of scouting, then assistant general manager after Michael Doran, the then assistant general manager, was injured in an automobile accident in November 1984. In September 1988, the Jets fired John Ferguson, giving the GM job to Smith on an interim basis before making him the permanent manager in December. Smith was manager of the Jets for over five years and was unable to turn around the fortunes of the team. Smith changed the character of the team from a fast team to one that was considered to lack the character to make the playoffs. Smith was the manager who traded away future Hall-of-famer Dale Hawerchuk after Hawerchuk demanded a trade. During his tenure, attendance dropped in Winnipeg to franchise lows. His firing was expected as early as 1991. Smith made over 70 trades as GM and had numerous contract squabbles with players. Smith was fired by the Jets in January 1994 with the team in last place in its division.
Smith worked as a scout for the Chicago Blackhawks and assisted the USA Hockey program until August 1997, when Smith was appointed the associate general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In an unusual arrangement in the Maple Leafs' front office, general manager duties were shared with team president Ken Dryden and Anders Hedberg as personnel director. A couple of Smith's noteworthy moves during his time with the Leafs were the hiring of Pat Quinn as head coach and the signing of Curtis Joseph prior to the start of the 1998–99 season. Despite the 28 point turnaround, Smith's contract wasn't renewed. Smith was offered a promotion by Dryden, but Smith demanded a role without Dryden involved in day-to-day operations and wanted to be an alternate governor for the Leafs. In June 1999, Dryden fired Smith over the phone while Smith was taking his wife to cancer treatments in Boston.
Smith was not out of work for long. In December 1999, the Chicago Blackhawks fired their coach and general manager. The Blackhawks hired Smith as 'director of hockey operations' while Bob Pulford was general manager and coach. Smith's job was to rebuild the organization, and he also performed the tasks of a general manager, including trades, free agents and drafting. On September 22, 2000, Smith was given the title he was exercising in practice: general manager of the Blackhawks. He would be the Blackhawks' GM for three years. He was fired by the Hawks in October 2003. He had been criticized publicly by Hawks ownership after a strip club incident involving Theo Fleury. Ownership was unhappy with Smith's drafting of Europeans, his handling of the Fleury controversy, team chemistry and how it should be run. Ownership made comments favouring head coach Brian Sutter and Smith was fired after a slow start to the 2003–04 season.
Smith did draft some very successful NHL players: Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Dustin Byfuglien, Duncan Keith, James Wisniewski, Adam Burish, Tuomo Ruutu and Craig Anderson. Four of those players helped win the Stanley Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. 
Smith has been heavily criticized for his frequent drafting of Russian players. During his stint as the Jets general manager, he drafted players such as Alexei Zhamnov, Igor Korolev, Sergei Bautin and Nikolai Khabibulin. Smith also was responsible for drafting Jets mainstay Keith Tkachuk. His tenure in Chicago was considered a disaster as he failed to address many of the team's holes and drafted first round flops such as Mikhail Yakubov, Pavel Vorobiev, Adam Munro and Anton Babchuk. Another move that many hockey pundits viewed as laughable was his hiring of Alpo Suhonen as the team's head coach as Suhonen was deemed too soft as a coach, along with his refusal to discipline players and change up lines during long losing streaks. Suhonen ended up quitting before season's end. Smith was also criticized by the Chicago media for his acquisitions of ex Toronto Maple Leafs such as Korolev, Garry Valk, Todd Gill and Alexander Karpovtsev, moves which essential dubbed the team "the Chicago Maple Leafs".
Work with Team USA
Smith has been heavily involved with USA Hockey, having served as the coach and general manager for the team's 1981, 1994 and 1995 appearances at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. In addition, he serves on the advisory board to USA Hockey.
Smith is widowed after his wife Judith succumbed to cancer in the fall of 2000. The couple had one son, Jason. Smith has authored ten books related to coaching in hockey at the grassroots level and is an avid collector of Native American artwork.
|Team||Year||Regular season||Post season|
|Winnipeg Jets||1980-81||23||2||17||4||(32)||6th in Smythe||Missed playoffs|
- Morris, Jim (December 4, 1988). "Atypical hockey man new boss of Jets". Ottawa Citizen. p. C4.
- Gallagher, Tony (October 13, 1991). "Smith's close to jetting out". The Province (Vancouver, B.C.). p. A81.
- Hornsby, Lance (August 20, 1997). "Smith to join quartet". Financial Post. p. 47.
- "Winnipeg Jets fire General Manager". Gainesvile Sun. January 20, 1994. p. 10.
- "Dryden's the winner on power play". Toronto Star. June 24, 1999. p. 1.
- "Deja vu for Smith: Big job, little title ; As Blackhawks hire former Leaf associate to right sinking ship". Toronto Star. December 13, 1999. p. 1.
- "Activity". The Globe and Mail. September 23, 2000. p. S4.
- Kelley, Jim (October 25, 2003). "Same Hawks front office, different season". ESPN. Retrieved September 16, 2010.
John Ferguson, Sr.
|General Manager of the original Winnipeg Jets
|Head coach of the original Winnipeg Jets
|General Manager of the Chicago Blackhawks