Al Smith (ice hockey)
November 10, 1945|
Toronto, ON, CAN
|Died||August 7, 2002(aged 56)|
|Height||6 ft 1 in (185 cm)|
|Weight||200 lb (91 kg; 14 st 4 lb)|
Smith began junior hockey in 1961 with the Toronto Marlboros. In 1962 he began playing for the Lakeshore Bruins of the OHA before rejoining the Marlboros in the 1964–65 season.
Late in the 1965–66 NHL season, Smith played two games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning one of them and posting a 1.94 goals against average. In 1966 he was sent to the Maple Leaf farm team in Victoria, British Columbia (also called the Maple Leafs) where he started 56 games. He was moved to the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks for the 1967 playoffs, where he played in 6 games, posting a 2.61 GAA and got one shutout. That year he also appeared in one game for the San Francisco Seals in the WHL playoffs.
From 1967 to 1969 he played 85 games with the Tulsa Oilers, Rochester Americans, and Baltimore Clippers minor league teams before joining the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins, claimed from the Toronto organization in the Intra-League Draft, June 11, 1969.
Toronto Maple Leafs career
Smith started his National Hockey League career with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Smith was one of five goalies who played for the Maple Leafs during the 1966–67 regular season, their last Stanley Cup season. He was the back-up to Terry Sawchuk for two of the last three games in the 1967 Stanley Cup final. The official NHL Record Book and Guide does not list Smith on the Stanley Cup winning roster.
Eighteen months earlier, Smith had quit the Toronto Marlboros to work for a hospital supply firm. During the 1964–65 season, Smith would get the opportunity to make his NHL debut for the Maple Leafs. The first game was against the Chicago Blackhawks, when he relieved Gary Smith atfter 2:15 of play. He backstopped the Leafs to a 3–2 victory and stalled Bobby Hull at 47 goals.
In the 1965–66 season, he played one more game for the Maple Leafs. On December 31, 1965, he was part of a 5–1 losing effort against the Blackhawks. After playing only one regular season game, Smith was called up and dressed for games four and five of Stanley Cup Finals, due to Johnny Bower's injury. Al Smith qualified to be engraved on the Stanley Cup, but Toronto left his name off, because he did not play in the playoffs. His other brief moment of glory for the Maple Leafs was participating in the 1968 NHL All-Star Game. He played in relief for Bruce Gamble and stopped 13 of 14 shots. He would be claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the intraleague draft, the same draft that saw the Chicago Blackhawks claim Tony Esposito from the Montreal Canadiens.
NHL and WHA career
He would also play with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Hartford Whalers and Colorado Rockies. One of the most infamous moments of his career came on February 13, 1977 when he quit the Buffalo Sabres. Reunited with former Maple Leafs coach Punch Imlach, now the Buffalo General Manager, Smith was to replace injured Sabres goalie Gerry Desjardins in a game against the Minnesota North Stars. The Sabres had also called up Don Edwards and less than an hour before gametime, Imlach ordered Sabres coach Floyd Smith to play Edwards instead. After the playing of the National Anthem, Smith stepped off the bench, saluted Buffalo owners Seymour and Northrup Knox and headed for the dressing room.
Smith would also play in the World Hockey Association with the New England Whalers where he would earn the honour of WHA's top goaltender in 1978. A third team WHA All-Star for two consecutive years, many people in hockey felt Smith was robbed when snubbed by Team Canada for the 1974 Summit Series between WHA All-Stars and the Russian national team. His career would last from 1966 to 1981.
Smith was claimed (from Toronto) by Pittsburgh Penguins in National Hockey League intraleague draft, June 11, 1969, then from Pittsburgh by the Detroit Red Wings in the intraleague draft, June 8, 1971. He was subsequently selected by New England Whalers in 1972 World Hockey Association General Player Draft, February 12, 1972.
Smith would be traded by the Red Wings to Buffalo Sabres for future considerations, March 10, 1975 then signed as free agent by New England Whalers, August 15, 1977. His National Hockey League rights were retained by Whalers prior to expansion draft, June 9, 1979. Finally he was traded by Whalers to Colorado Rockies for cash, September 4, 1980. 
In 1981, Smith had played 37 games for the Colorado Rockies and retired. He jumped on a train to Vancouver and began selling cars. Afterwards, he headed to the BC interior to pick fruit. Before returning to Toronto, Smith also tried to sell the Reuters news service to new clients.
Once he returned to Toronto, Smith engaged in his love of writing. Subjects would include sports, such as in his 1997 novel The Parade has Passed, featuring a WHA forward who hitchhikes to the funeral of his former coach, who had died in a brawl. Smith later wrote the play Confessions to Anne Sexton and the beginnings of a novel entitled, The Tragedy of Lake Tuscarora. To make ends meet, Smith became a taxi driver for Beck Taxi, a company in Toronto known for its orange and green taxi cabs. It was not uncommon for Smith to pick up old friends and former teammates.
In 1998, Smith used the $34,000 of pension benefits he'd received as part of the NHL's settlement with former players to produce Confessions to Anne Sexton at the Alumnae Theatre on Berkeley Street in downtown Toronto. The play was about a former goalie who goes to New York City to attend an Impressionist art exhibit. On opening night, seventeen people attended the performance, the biggest house of the show's three-week run.
In the last few months of his life, Smith socialized with Jim Keon, the brother of Smith's former teammate Dave Keon. Before his death, Smith was still working on The Tragedy of Lake Tuscarora. Smith's son Adam always said that his father was not a talented writer. After reading the manuscript, Adam told his father on his deathbed that there were fourteen pages that were perfect and Smith was happy.
|1965–66||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||2||1||0||0||62||2||0||1.94||?|
|1966–67||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||1||0||1||0||60||5||0||5.00||?|
|1966–67||Victoria Maple Leafs||WHL||56||24||26||5||3375||180||1||3.20||?|
|1968–69||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||7||2||2||1||335||16||0||2.87||?|
|1971–72||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||43||18||20||4||2500||135||4||3.24||?|
|1972–73||New England Whalers||WHA||51||31||19||1||3059||162||1||3.18||?|
|1973–74||New England Whalers||WHA||55||30||21||2||1569||164||3||3.08||?|
|1974–75||New England Whalers||WHA||59||33||21||4||1725||202||0||3.47||?|
|1977–78||New England Whalers||WHA||55||30||20||3||3246||174||3||3.22||?|
|1978–79||New England Whalers||WHA||40||17||17||5||2396||132||3||3.31||.883|
Awards and honours
- Played in National Hockey League All-Star Game, 1968
- Played in World Hockey Association All-Star Game, 1972–73
- Named to World Hockey Association All-Star Third Team, 1972–73
- Played in World Hockey Association All-Star Game, 1973–74
- Named to World Hockey Association All-Star Third Team, 1973–74
- Played in World Hockey Association All-Star Game, 1974–75
- Won the Ben Hatskin Trophy (Top WHA Goaltender), 1977–78
- Named to World Hockey Association All-Star First Team, 1977–78
- Inaugural member of the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame, 2010
- 67: The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory, and the End of an Empire, Damien Cox and Gord Stellick, ISBN 0-470-83400-5, Publisher: John Wiley and Sons
- New England Whalers 1974/75 Yearbook
- Al Smith (1965-81)
- The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association, p.215, McLelland and Stewart, Toronto, ON, ISBN 0-7710-8947-3
- The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association, p.214, McLelland and Stewart, Toronto, ON, ISBN 0-7710-8947-3
- The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association, p.216, McLelland and Stewart, Toronto, ON, ISBN 0-7710-8947-3
- WHA Hall of Fame Members