January 12, 2007 - A switch of uniforms hasn’t deterred the determination of defenseman Dan Smith.
On the player questionnaire that all Griffins fill out at the beginning of the season, Dan Smith listed steak and mashed potatoes among his favorite foods, which is fitting for a meat-and-potatoes kind of player who sticks to the fundamentals.
“I’m probably a flank steak or something; I don’t think I’m a filet,” Smith said with a grin. “I know I’m not flashy. When you don’t notice me, that’s when I’m having a good game.”
Smith joined the Griffins this season after playing the past three seasons in the Edmonton Oilers organization. He split his first five pro seasons shuttling between the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and Hershey in the AHL. He also spent a year in the Phoenix organization and a season in Finland. You played for the Oilers in Toronto, Edmonton and Hamilton the last three years. How difficult is it to switch cities every year?
“It’s nice when you can go back to the same place year in and year out. That’s why we’ve kept our home in the summer in Denver, which is near (Colorado Springs) where my wife and her family are from. I’ve learned that spending time with your family is what life is all about.” You recently became a father (Editor's note: Smith’s wife Jacynda gave birth to a baby girl, Aryia, on Sept. 27). How much has your life changed?
“It’s been a little adjustment. Before, you were just worried about going home, getting some sleep and being prepared for games. Now it’s not about me or my wife. It’s about the little baby crawling around. “My wife has been just awesome. She’s the one who takes care of her at night. There have been a couple of nights where we paid the price in the morning.” Most hockey players have to overcome adversity at some point in their careers. Tell me about your first full season as a pro.
“It was a long year. I broke my face taking a puck in practice and now there’s a plate and screws in there. I got my left knee skated over and I was out two months because the blade cut all way to the bone. I broke my foot blocking a shot. I had a problem with the inside of my hips. “It seemed like it was one thing after another. I thought they were going to name a wing in the hospital after me, or at least the treatment center. I think I saw more of the people there than my teammates. “But the way I play, if I’m not hurting or hurt somehow, I’m not doing my job. (Pain) comes with the territory; thankfully the injuries have slowed over time. I don’t think I could have lasted 10 years otherwise."
You were fortunate to win a Calder Cup championship in your first pro season after finishing your junior career. What was that experience like?
“That year was unreal. I came to Hershey from the worst team in junior hockey for the last month and a half of the season. Hershey wasn’t the most talented team, but we worked hard and everything just fell into place and we got on a roll. “I learned what it takes to win – and that it’s not easy. I still have my ring that I wear around playoff time to remind me of what’s required. Hopefully, it’s something I can pass along to the younger guys. “The playoffs are the best time of year, so when you miss the playoffs like I have the past three seasons, it makes for a long summer. You can talk about injuries, but when you don’t get to participate in the playoffs, that is painful.”What will it take for the Griffins to be a playoff team?
“We need to hack and whack and claw and scratch. We have to battle for that inch in front of us. We have to show that we’re willing to work hard enough to win. We have to decide to work harder than our opponents every game.”