Barry Edward Smith
Born: April 25, 1955 (Surrey, B.C.)
Died: September 7, 2013 (Blaine, Tenn.)
Barry Smith was a Don Cherry hockey player.
The centre played a hard-working style, seeking to make up for what he might have lacked in skill through sheer hard work. He was a tenacious penalty killer, a role which he played in parts of three National Hockey League seasons for two teams, both under Cherry’s tutelage.
Smith, at 5-foot-11, 178-pounds, was less a rock ’em, sock ’em forward than a diligent checker and a pesky presence. In a 114-game NHL career, he was assessed just five minor penalties. He also recorded seven goals and seven assists. You could spot him easily on ice with his flowing locks and Yosemite Sam moustache.
Born in the working-class Vancouver suburb of Surrey, Smith was just 16 when he joined the new Vancouver Nats of the Western Canada Hockey League. (The woeful Nats lasted just two seasons before relocating to Kamloops. British Columbia’s largest city went without junior hockey for more than 30 years.) In his second season, Smith moved to the New Westminster Bruins, based across the Fraser River from Surrey. Coach Ernie (Punch) McLean was building a powerhouse squad of scofflaws whose list of achievements would be almost as long as their rap sheet. Punch’s style would culminate in a notorious brawl in 1979 when his entire team ganged up on a handful of rivals. In March, 1974, Smith served a three-game suspension for returning to the ice to fight after being ejected from a game.
Smith blossomed in the 1974-75 season, scoring 19 goals in 65 games, several coming shorthanded. Smith only served 50 minutes in penalties that season, though a Saskatchewan newspaper reported he had told Regina pstar Rob Tudor he would not get out of New Westminster alive after the next game.
The Bruins made it to the Memorial Cup finals, losing the major junior championship by 7-3 to the Toronto Marlboros at Kitchener, Ont. (The Bruins got to the finals by defeating the Sherbrooke Beavers, 7-5, in a game featuring 14 fights. Smith scored a goal. New Westminster also beat the Marlies 6-2 to get a bye to the final.) Smith was named the tournament’s all-star centre and won the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as MVP.
Smith played five games for Canada’s national team at the world junior tournament, scoring one goal and adding two assist in five games, as Canada finished with a silver medal after losing 4-3 to the Soviet Union.
The Boston Bruins selected Smith in the second round of the NHL amateur draft (No. 32 overall), while the Edmonton Oilers of the rival World Hockey Association selected the centre No. 36 overall.
Smith managed to score only a single goal with spot duty over 19 games in 1975-76 before being sent down to the Rochester Americans for more seasoning. The rookie’s lone goal was scored on Nov. 13, 1975, against Pete LoPresti of the Minnesota North Stars in a 6-0 shellacking at Boston Garden. The assists went to defencemen Dallas Smith (no relation) and Bobby Orr, who was playing just his third game after missing the first month of the season following knee surgery.
The centre found a niche in Rochester, where his work ethic was appreciated by fans and teammates alike. He played 325 games in the Amerks red, white and blue sweater, including an 80-game season (1978-79) in which he scored 23 goals and added 43 assists. He killed penalties, took face-offs, shadowed the opposing teams best scorers.
He got another crack at the NHL after Cherry became coach of the Colorado Rockies. Signed as a free agent in 1979, he scored his second NHL goal on an empty Pittsburgh Penguin net in Denver on Jan. 24, 1980. He spent part of the season with Colorado’s Birmingham Bulls farm team.
Cherry’s tenure as coach ended after the season and, though Smith stayed with the Rockies for 62 games in 1980-81, his longest NHL stint, during which he played on a checking line with Mike Gillis and Bob Attwell, he was eventually sent down to the Fort Worth Texans of the Central Hockey League, where he ended his playing career at the end of the season.
He returned to Rochester to coach a junior-B team. In 1992, he was hired to coach the Knoxville Cherokees of the minor pro East Coast Hockey League. He stayed behind the bench until late in the 1996-97 season when he was fired and replaced by Jack Capuano, now coach of the NHL’s New York Islanders. Smith earned coach-of-the-year honours in his sophomore campaign in the league, during which he incidentally used female goalie Manon Rhéaume in four games.
Before he had even played a single game of pro hockey, Smith was doomed to losing money to a crook. He had signed with Dick Sorkin as his agent. The fast-talking Long Islander sought to cash in on the big-money contracts suddenly on offer in hockey with the creation of a rival major league. Sorkin worked the amateurs of the Western Canada Hockey League, signing several members of the New Westminster Bruins, among them Smith. He was to collect the players salaries, handle their taxes, and offer advice on investments. Instead, he used the money to cover more than $250,000 lost on the stock market, and at least $600,000 lost with bets at horse-racing tracks and with bookies.
The agent was convicted of grand larceny and sentenced to a three-year jail term in 1977.
Among the NHL players to lose money were Lanny McDonald, Ron Greschner, Tom Lysiak, Jude Drouin, and Smith, who lost about $50,000, according to contemporary accounts.
Smith owned Vista Farms, a horse farm at Blaine, Tenn., with Linda Cowell. Last year, animal control officers seized 35 horses on the farm, most suffering from malnourishment. Two dead horses were found and the farm was placed in quarantine. In January, Smith and Cowell pled guilty to animal cruelty charges and were placed on probation. In May, authorities seized six more horses and the couple were held in jail overnight on a $2,200 bond each. Smith died on Sept. 7, aged 58.