Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ryan Smyth Autographed Card

When future civilizations uncover the remains of our history and enter Rexall Place in Edmonton, they'll see five Stanley Cup banners and close to a dozen banners with numbers and names hanging from the rafters, ranging from 3 (Al Hamilton) to 99 (Wayne Gretzky), and figuring out through our printed material that 99 was the very best there ever was at whatever ''ice hockey'' was, they might assume that the one hanging right next to him, 94, with Ryan Smyth's name on top of it, would be second in line. If I'm still around when that happens, I will do nothing to try to convince them otherwise - apologies to Mark Messier and Jari Kurri.

I mean, sure, Mess has two Cups more than Gretzky does, a Hart trophy and a Conn Smythe. Whoop-dee-do, considering the teams he's played on. Smyth? He was often the one posting the best on-ice results despite even all the articles praising him suggesting he may have been the least talented player on the ice the whole time, that it was all accomplished out of sheer will and hard work alone. All of it: an All-Star Game; a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals; 6 international gold medals (including an Olympics and a World Cup) and one silver with Team Canada, often as the captain (6 times); 1270 regular season games with 360 goals, 456 assists and 842 points (again, on ''no talent''), with 59 more points (28 of them goals) in 93 playoff games.

I like that despite Andrew Ference being the Edmonton Oilers' captain, the team put the 'C' on Smyth's chest for his final game, on April 11th. As this 2003-04 Quest For The Cup card from Pacific (#43 in the set) can attest, it wasn't the first time:

Indeed, he was the de-facto choice to wear the 'C' when the captain would be injured from 1997 onwards, and often during the pre-season as well. But he was also such a tremendous leader that he didn't need it to be stitched on his chest to give it his all, and the results would show up on the score sheet as well, with seven seasons of more than 25 goals (with a top of 39 in 1996-97) and a good 50-60 guaranteed points by year's end, with a career-best of 70 in 2000-01 and 10 different seasons over the 50 mark.

Stability, leadership, dedication, consistency. Had the Mark Messier award (for best leader) existed in the 1990s and 2000s, Smyth may very well have won it... over Messier himself.

Thanks for the memories.

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