Monday, April 30, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Al Smith

While the last name is a common one, the person and career of the AGMs wasn't. From playing with two teams in a single playoffs to getting picked up in two Intra-League Drafts to moving to the WHA to becoming a taxi driver and writer post-playing career; the term "renaissance man" is very valid. This week, the profile of Al Smith.

Smith started his journey with the Toronto Midget Marlboros in the 1961-62 season, also playing time with the Marlboros' Junior A squad. Between the 1962-63 and 1964-65 seasons, Smith played for the Junior B Lakeshore Maroons. Part of the 1964-65 season, Smith went back to the Marlboros' Junior A squad, as well as spending most of the 1965-66 season with the Marlies.

At the end of the 1965-66 season, Smith was called up to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he would play two games (1-0-0). The 1966-67 season would be a while one, playing one game for Toronto (a loss), but spending most of his time with the Victoria Maple Leafs of the Western League. With Victoria, Smith played 56 games and finished with a 24-26-5 record. The playoffs in the WHL were wild for Smith, as he would play for two teams-- neither were the Victoria team he played for in the regular season. Smith played in six contests for the Vancouver Canucks (1-4-0) and one contest for the California Seals (a loss) in that 1967 playoff season.

The 1967-68 season, Smith moved to the Central League's Tulsa Oilers, finishing with a 23-12-5 record in 40 games, then 2-2 in four playoff games. Smith would only play eight games for Tulsa in the 1968-69 season (no record of note), while playing seven games to Toronto (2-2-1), but would spend most of the season in the AHL for the Rochester Americans, compiling a 13-12-7 record in 34 games.

During the 1969 Intra-League Draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins claimed Smith from the Leafs. Smith played in 46 games during the 1969-70 season for the Penguins, finishing with a 15-20-8 record. Smith also played three games for the Baltimore Clippers of the AHL that season. In the 1969-70 season, Smith stayed in Pittsburgh for the full campaign, going 9-22-9 in his 46 games.

Smith was claimed in the 1971 Intra-League Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, spending the 1971-72 season with Detroit and finishing with a 18-20-4 record.

The WHA came onto the scene in the 1972 and Smith was selected by the New England Whalers. Not happy with his position in Detroit, Smith joined the Whalers for the 1972-73 season, going 31-19-1, while finishing with a 12-3 playoff record to help the Whalers win the first ever Avco World Trophy, despite the trophy not being completed yet. Smith returned to the Whalers in the 1973-74 season, putting together a 30-21-2 record in 55 games and only a 3-4 playoff record. The 1974-75 season has Smith play in 59 contests and record a 33-21-4 record and 2-4 playoff mark.

The Red Wings traded Smith's rights to the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline in 1975, but Smith wouldn't play for the Sabres until the 1975-76 season; going 9-3-2 in only 14 games. The 1976-77 season saw Smith play only seven games and an 0-3-0 record.

Becoming a free agent, Smith moved back to the WHA and the New England Whalers starting in the 1977-78 season, playing in 55 games and putting up a 30-20-3 record, but an 0-2 playoff record. Smith would win the Ben Hastkin Trophy for WHA Best Goaltender and named to the WHA First All-Star Team. The 1978-79 season would be a little rougher for Smith, playing in only 40 games with a 17-17-5 record and then a 1-2 playoff record.

As the WHA and NHL merged, Smith followed the Whalers to Hartford and would play 30 games in the 1979-80 season, going 11-10-8. Smith also played two games with the AHL's Springfield Indians and would put up a 1-1-0 record.

Smith would be traded to the Colorado Rockies for cash before the 1980-81 season, where Smith would go 9-18-4 record in 37 games with the Rockies. After that season, Smith would retired from the NHL.

Post playing days, Smith went to BC to sell cars and pick fruit as well as trying to sell the Reuters news service to various clients. When he moved back to Toronto, Smith wrote "Confessions to Anne Sexton", which was turned into a small performance piece. Smith also was a taxi driver while he was writing to make ends meet. While working on another piece called "The Tragedy of Lake Tuscarora", Smith fell ill with pancreatic cancer, which he would succumb to in August of 2002.

While he bounced around a lot of places, Smith finally found his niche in the WHA. While he did only play there for five years-- he revitalized a career that may have ended a lot sooner if it wasn't for a new league to help him out.

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