Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sid Smith : Maple Leaf Forever Pt.2

On December 8, 1946, while playing for the Quebec Aces in the QSHL, Sid Smith was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

His first assignment in pro hockey was to join the Leafs farm team in Pittsburgh. During the 1946-47 season, Smith played in 23 games with the Hornets, scoring 12 goals and racking-up 17 points. In 1946-47, National Hockey League rules stipulated that movement by players from the minor leagues to the NHL had to be completed by February 10, 1947. With the passing of this date, there was very little activity by the Original Six franchises. The Buffalo Bisons of the AHL traded left winger Hub Macey to the Montreal Canadiens for right winger Bill Shill. The former had been purchased by Montreal from Hershey. The Boston Bruins recalled defenceman Clare Martin from the Boston Olympics. Also, they sold defenceman Allan Stanley to Providence. As for the Maple Leafs, they did make a couple of moves.

On February 2, 1947, the Maple Leafs called up defenceman Bill Barilko from the Hollywood Wolves (PCHL) and Sid Smith from the Pittsburgh Hornets. Barilko and Smith were summoned by Toronto, who had a depleted line-up without defencemen Bob Goldham and Garth Boesch, along with forwards Vic Lynn and Joe Klukay.

The two new recruits made their NHL debut against Montreal on February 6, 1947, in the Forum. Game one for the two rookies saw Barilko taking aim at "Rocket" Richard and Smith getting acquainted with his new linemates - Ted Kennedy and Howie Meeker.

With no game scheduled on Friday, Sid Smith looked forward to his first home game in Maple Leaf Gardens on Saturday February 8,1947. The visitors were Boston. In the third period, with an assist from Howie Meeker, Sid Smith would score his first National Hockey League goal. A newspaper account details the play.

"..out of one of these attacks, Meeker snaffles the puck, lays Sid Smith a pass. Smith hasn't seen much of the puck in his two games in the big time. He recognized it right away though and handled it as if he was born with a rubber plant in his mouth. He had a blond, burly and willing Fernand Flamon to out shuffle, and he did. Then from the wrong side backhanded a shot into the far corner.

Toronto defeated the Boston Bruins 5-2 with both Sid Smith and Bill Barilko netting their initial NHL goals.

The following season, 1947-48, would see Smith split his time between the Leafs (31 games) and Hornets (30 games). In the semi-finals, the Leafs opponent was Boston. In game two, Sid Smith faced his first adversity as a pro. While turning to react to an intercepted pass, he had a knee-on-knee collision with a Bruins defenceman. The result was torn ligaments. All Sid Smith could do was watch, as the Leafs advanced to the Stanley Cup finals. On April 14, 1948, Toronto would defeat Detroit 7-2, to sweep the series and capture Lord Stanley. Sid Smith would win his first Stanley Cup.

After a summer of rehab, Smith was prepared for training camp in the fall. Part of his conditioning regiment included returning to the baseball diamond. On June 24,1948, Smith played for Hank Goldup's "NHL Ball Players", and hit a home run to give his squad a 6-5 win. Smith didn't restrict his ball participation to benefit games. He was a member of the Prince of Wales team which were part of the Dovercourt Senior Softball League.

In 1948-49, Sid Smith was Pittsburgh bound. The Leafs, concerned over Smith's physical condition, didn't even bother inviting him to training camp. If Smith felt he had anything to prove to Leaf management, he let his play do his talking for him. In a truly awesome year in which he played 68 games, Smith scored 55 goals and 57 assists for 112 points. He would win the John B. Sollenberger Trophy (AHL leading scorer) and be selected to the AHL First All-Star Team. Sid Smith had made a huge statement. Holding a hot-hand, Smith was called up by Conn Smythe for the playoffs.

Smith first hit the ice in game four of the 1949 semi-finals versus Boston. Replacing Vic Lynn on the K-M-L Line (Kennedy-Meeker-Lynn), Smith proved once and for all that he belonged in Maple Leaf  Blue & White. Toronto defeated Boston 3-1 in game four and Smith scored two goals and an assist. In six playoff games, he would score five goals and two assists. It was another Stanley Cup final sweep for the Leafs over Detroit. Sid Smith's second taste of winning the big prize was much more sweeter and satisfying than his first.

Sid Smith's first full year in Toronto came in 1949-50. To put an exclamation point on the fact he belonged in the NHL, Smith lead the Leafs in scoring with 45 points (22G - 23A). He would reach/exceed  the scoring benchmark of 20 goals per season from 1949-50 to 1954-55. In the 1951 playoffs, Smith scored 7 goals in 11 games. His effort, along with Bill Barilko's famous goal, helped Toronto win another Stanley Cup.

His play resulted in just rewards. In 1951-52 he cracked the top-five in league scoring with 57 points. He was selected to the Second All-Star Team in 1951 and 1952. In 1952 and 1955, he was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy. In 1954-55 he scored 33 goals and earned a spot on the First All-Star Team. With the retirement of Ted Kennedy, Smith had the honour of being named team captain for the 1955-56 campaign.

Sid Smith's final year in Toronto and the National Hockey League came in 1957-58. After 12 games, Smith left to become a player-coach with the Whitby Dunlops (OHA-Sr.).

Previously, I wrote that Sid Smith experienced the feeling of being a winner very early in his career. In 1943 he won a Juvenile title in the Toronto Hockey League. Smith would exit the game he loved so much in the same fashion. His two years in Whitby could not be scripted any better. In 1958, the Dunlops won the World Championship in Oslo, Norway. In 1959, they were crowned Senior Champions by winning the Allan Cup.

Sid Smith : A Maple Leaf Forever. From start to finish.

Tomorrow : Reflections on Sid Smith

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.