Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sid Smith : Maple Leaf Forever

Very early in his sporting life, a young Sid Smith (17) experienced the feeling of being a winner. Playing in the Juvenile Division of the THL (Toronto Hockey League), he skated along side Jim Cashburn and Red McLeish on a line which became known as the "Kid Line". The trio were the star attractions on Carmen Bush's Columbus Boy's Club entry in the THL. Lead by Smith and his linemates, Columbus captured the Juvenile championship. They posted an undefeated record of 17 victories and 1 tie. The team had a nice blend of offensive power (scoring 106 goals) and a sense of responsibility to protect their own zone (27 goals against). For Sid Smith, it was another learning experience under Carmen Bush. Smith had played much of his youth hockey under Bush. Smith, steadily gained skills that would assist him throughout his time in hockey.

Sid Smith's early exposure to winning wasn't limited to hockey. In September 1943, a baseball championship was added to the trophy case. Playing in the Juvenile Division of the Ontario Softball Association, Smith won a title with the Prince of Wales I.O.O.F.

In the 1943-44 hockey year, Smith played Junior "B" with Del La Salle Oaklands, a Catholic high school located in Toronto. Smith was referred to as an "import", since he didn't attend the school. He was getting his education at Central Commerce, another local high school. Hockey was the only reason for Smith turning his attention to another institution. While playing at Del, a significant occurrence took place, that Smith had no knowledge of. The Toronto Maple Leafs had placed Smith on their negotiation list.

The following year, Smith graduated to Junior "A" with Oshawa. The Generals were defending Memorial Cup champions, but most of the squad had moved on. There is little doubt, that Leafs management was responsible for his assignment in Oshawa. While playing for the Generals, Smith was coached by Leaf legend Charlie Conacher. At the conclusion of Oshawa's season, Smith and Barry Sullivan were loaned to the Porcupine Combines. The Porcupine club was battling St. Michael's for the OHA Junior "A" championship. Sid Smith would play 2 games for the Combines' and score a goal in each contest.

Still in the dark concerning the Leafs involvement in his career, Smith accepted an invite from Hershey to try out for the Bears (1945-46) in the American Hockey League. While in Hershey, Smith's father passed away and Sid returned to Toronto to attend to his grieving family. Sid Smith would eventually play hockey in '45-46, joining the Toronto Staffords, who were part of the OHA Senior League. The Staffords roster contained many former professional players including Rhys Thomson, Art Jackson, Jack Igoldsby and Don Willson.

In 1946-47, Sid Smith would don the jersey of the Quebec Aces in the Quebec Senior Hockey League. He would skate in 15 games with the Aces, scoring 12 goals and registering 17 points. In December of 1946, Quebec visited New York for a game against the Rovers. One of the individuals in attendance for the Aces versus Rovers match-up was Leaf scout Johnny Mitchell. He disclosed to Smith that Toronto was eyeing him all the way back to his time with Del La Salle. On December 8, 1946, Sid Smith was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent.

Tomorrow : Sid Smith turns pro.

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