When you meet Vincent Lecavalier or Sidney Crosby and you are a brother hockey player they look you in the eye, extend their right hands and say: “Vincent Lecavalier” or “Sidney Crosby.”
That experience stayed with the Trevor Smith, bestowed the captaincy of the Toronto Marlies Friday in a press conference at the Ricoh Coliseum.
The 28-year-centreman is a first time pro captain but his resume shows seven minor league teams going onto eight years.
In between are 24 NHL games, seven with the New York Islanders in 2008-2009, 16 with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011-12 and one game last year with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
When future Hall of Famers introduce themselves, the working stiffs of the game remember but it was the humility in that simple gesture that impressed Smith.
“I always found that a little bit hard to believe,” he said. “When Sidney Crosby says ‘Hi, I’m Sidney Crosby” you think to yourself, ‘yeah, I know.’”
For Marlies coach Steve Spott, deciding who to give the captaincy was easy and hard: there were a lot of good candidates but Smith stood out.
“He’s played over 400 games in the American Hockey League and 24 in the National Hockey League so he knows what’s it’s like to come back down,” Spott said. “When you have a player who comes back down, it’s one thing for Gord (assistant coach Gord Dineen) or I to talk but when Trevor pulls him aside to talk with him, that’s going to go a long way.”
“I think I’m a pretty easygoing guy, pretty easy to talk to for the younger guys,” Smith said. “I spent seven years in the American League so I have a lot of experience away from the rink. “
“I’ve always tried to be a leader on and off the ice, by example, in everything I was doing,” he said. “I feel that’s something I was taught growing up, lead by example.”
The Marlies will rotate their assistant captains. Defencemen Korbinian Holzer and Andrew MacWilliam will wear the A on the road. Rearguard John-Michael Liles and forward Jerry D’Amigo will don the letter at home.
Liles, an NHLer with 621 NHL games to his credit, understands the demands Smith will face.
“I had Joe Sakic as a captain for four years with Colorado,” he said. “He was the epitome of what you want in your captain. He was always the hardest worker. He showed the young kids what kind of effort you have to put out to be a world-class athlete. For what I’ve seen of Smitty so far, he’ll be great.”