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Greg Smyth remembered fondly by teammates, opponents

Greg Smyth was often described as a journeyman NHL defenceman, but that doesn't mean Smyth, who died Friday, didn't leave a profound impression on those he played with — and against — during his hockey career.
Greg Smyth was often described as a journeyman NHL defenceman, but that doesn't mean Smyth, who died Friday, didn't leave a profound impression on those he played with — and against — during his hockey career. — Telegram file photo

News of death of former St. John's Maple Leafs blueliner leads to many messages of condolence, plenty of reminiscences

The death of Greg “Bird Dog” Smyth Friday prompted an outpouring of comments and condolences, including from Don Cherry and Ron MacLean to end Saturday’s Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada.


'Bird Dog' had an impact

The following are just some of the reactions and often humourous reminiscences taken from social media, e-mails and press releases (in some cases, slightly edited) about Smyth, the former NHL and St. John’s Maple Leafs defenceman who died Friday in St. John’s at the age of 51 after a protracted battle with cancer.

No funeral services have been announced, but visitations are being held 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. both Wednesday and Thursday at Carnell’s Funeral Home on Freshwater Road in St. John's.

Corner Brook native Todd Gillingham, Smyth’s friend and teammate on the AHL Leafs and IHL’s Chicago Wolves and Los Angeles IceDogs:

“He loved the game, the city and our great province more than anyone I’ve ever met. I had the pleasure of playing with him for four seasons and can honestly say there was never a better teammate, friend and roommate that I’ve ever known. With a heart as big as his courage, he was not only a teammate, but a great friend … anyone that has ever played with or against him I’m sure will tell you the same.”

Mount Pearl native Terry Ryan, who played against Smyth in the AHL and later became his close friend:

“He was a fierce competitor on the ice — to put it mildly — and loyal buddy off of it. One of a kind. He impacted everyone he ever played with or against.”

Note: Ryan also posted a two-minute tribute to Smyth on his Twitter account (@terryryan20).

St. John’s native and goaltender Paul Kenny, a teammate of Smyth’s on the OHL’s London Knights:

“(Bird Dog) was a character you could gravitate towards. When I arrived in London in a trade in 1985, Smitty was one of the first guys I met. His first words were ‘You stop the puck and I’ll do the protection, you will have nothing to worry about.’ Let me tell you, he always showed up no matter what the outcome might be. He was the consummate teammate with a gi-normous heart.”

Former St. John’s Maple Leafs teammate and three-time Stanley Cup winner Shawn Thornton:

“We lost a great man. He was a mentor and a friend. He taught me how to be a man 21 years ago when I was a boy breaking into the (pro hockey) Jungle. Stories and memories for days. The craziest, toughest guy I ever played with. But for as tough as he was, he was even more... caring about the people around him.”

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, Smyth’s teammate on the OHL Knights:

“Played with Birddog in London. Thought my name was “Rookie-shit” my entire first year. So did my fellow rookie Matt… his little brother. ‘Which one of you rookie shits took the last Juicyfruit?!!’ If you played with him, you still tell stories about him. A great character!”

Tie Domi, a teammate of Smyth’s on the Toronto Maple Leafs:

So sad to hear about the passing of Greg Smyth... Thoughts and prayers to his family friends and teammates. • Great teammate • Old school • One of a kind • Legend

Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, Smyth’s teammate on the 1996-97 AHL Leafs:

“Played with Birddog in St. John’s for a year. He took me under his wing and treated me like a little brother. Huge heart. Great teammate. Absolutely one of a kind. RIP my friend.”

University of Michigan assistant coach Brian Wiseman, the AHL Leafs’ leading scorer in 1996-97, Smyth’s first season in St. John’s:

“Great teammate and person! Ultimate competitor, even when sitting around watching Jeopardy. I was fortunate to call him a teammate and friend.”

Philadelphia Flyers president Paul Holmgren, a Flyers assistant coach when Smyth played for Philadelphia:

“Greg was a tough and physical player who would go to battle for his team. If he lost a battle, he'd want to go again, as soon as possible. More important, he was a good man. He was a battler off the ice, too. He fought his illness with all he had. He’s going to be missed.”

Former Flyers first-round draft pick Craig Fisher:

“(Someone) once asked me if any of my teammates could have been in (the movie) Slap Shot. I answered Bird Dog immediately, not just for his toughness, but because he had such a big heart and had so much personality.”

Darcy Harris, who played against Smyth as a member of the AHL Leafs’ arch-rivals, the Fredericton Canadiens:

“One of, if not, the only person I actually feared and respected at the same time.”

Forward Darin Kimble, Smith’s teammate with Quebec and Chicago in the NHL and Halifax in the AHL:

“The man, the myth and the Legend. Thanks for always being real. I will miss you. PS: Try not to shoecheck the Boss up there. PPS: Give me a heads up on what the Man says to you, so I know what to expect.”

Flyers Alumni Association president Brad Marsh, a teammate of Smyth’s in 1987-88:

“He loved the game and gave his all. He was a prototypical Flyer, with the physical play, with the stick work, with the dropping the gloves whenever it needed to be done.”

OHL Knight’s owner and former NHL forward Dale Hunter:

“It is with tremendous sorrow to hear of Greg’s passing. Having (had) the privilege of playing against Greg in the NHL and having him as a representative of the Knights, he will truly be missed.”

Former NHL defenceman Brent Severyn, a teammate of Smyth’s with the NHL’s Nordiques and AHL’s Citadels:

“Very sad news to hear my defence partner from Halifax, Greg Smyth, has passed away at 51. ‘Bird Dog’ was a unique character who I will always remember. Underneath all the toughness and the colourful personality, a man with a kind heart.”

Twitter: @telysports

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