Ryan Smyth‘s retirement, while not totally unexpected, came as a bit of a surprise. Just a few weeks prior, Craig Mactavish was attempting to unload the veteran to a contending team, in the hopes of giving the gritty winger a chance at Cup glory. After a campaign where the winger chipped in ten goals and a baker’s dozen of assists, fans could still imagine a future where perhaps Smyth was a fourth line contributor. He imagined a fate completely different.
While it clearly pains Smyth to not have a ring on his finger, he still achieved something that no other Oilers player has done to date—capture the fanbase. Sure, Wayne Gretzky‘s departure gutted the heart of the City of Champions like no other moment, but The Great One didn’t have a heart as big as Smytty’s.
At Rexall Place, Northlands replaced the huge letters spelling out This Is Oil Country with “Thank You Smytty.” Meanwhile, tributes poured off the screen to the Oilers legend, filling the arena with emotion as the Oilers won 5-2 in his last appearance. Smyth failed to score that elusive power-play goal that would’ve given him the record over Glenn Anderson, but it’s not records and rings that matter most to Ryan Smyth.
Ryan Smyth was a genuine lover of the sport, of the city and most of all, his family. Smyth was never one to hide his faith in God, thanking him on CBC after the game for where his career took him, flanked on camera by his wife and kids. As the game wound down, the screaming became deafening as tears flowed down Smyth’s face. He bawled–outright bawled and it was wonderful.
It was refreshing and invigorating as an Oilers fan to witness. No other player will likely hold as unique a place in the hearts of Oilers fans as Smyth. It was tough to send him off. However, it would be hard not to imagine Smyth not taking on a role with the organization. Smyth remains an Edmontonian, with business interests in the restaurant industry locally. We have likely not seen the last of Smyth in some capacity with the Oilers, and that homecoming will be a sweet one.
In the end. last night’s game marks the end of one era and the start of another. Smyth said goodbye, a player drafted by Glen Sather and the last connection to the team of the Boys on the Bus. That same night, Taylor Hall scored three assists to garner 80 points, the first player since Doug Weight to do so. Hall ends the season sixth in league scoring, with the team having four 50+ point players along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and David Perron. Ben Scrivens, who served me coffee at Tim Horton‘s the other day, was awesome against the Canucks,
In other words, he future WILL get brighter–it already is. Barring a terrible draft, free agency and trade season this summer, the team should take a step forward next season. A new era begins.