EDMONTON – It goes without saying that Ryan Smyth is forever linked to the Edmonton Oilers – now it’s just official.
The retired NHLer and Olympic gold medallist was inducted into the Edmonton Oilers Hall of Fame. For a kid who grew up in Banff, Smyth could have never imagined this.
“When I got drafted, when I put my draft sweater on, that was the first like ‘oh my gosh’ and then putting on the Oiler jersey to play a game,” Smyth said to reporters on Nov. 2. “It brings chills to my spine right now as I talk about it. It was a very special start for my career.”
Along with former captain Lee Fogolin, Smyth was part of the inaugural induction class of the Oilers fall of game at Rogers Centre in Edmonton on Nov. 3.
Congratulations, Lee & Ryan! 🏅— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) November 4, 2022
The #Oilers Hall of Fame has been officially unveiled inside @RogersPlace & we're honoured to have two of the team's all-time greats as the inaugural inductees! pic.twitter.com/7zELbs3vRk
The left winger retired from the NHL in 2014, scoring 386 goals and 842 points in 1,270 games – 971 wearing blue and orange.
The now 46-year-old was drafted six overall by the club in 1994 and recalls the heart-pounding moment of his first NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings, when he was inches away from his hockey idol and former Oilers great.
“My first NHL shift was against Wayne Gretzky,” said Smyth. “I was lining up on left wing and he was at centre and he got kicked out. Now he lines up right next to me and I was like, wow, is this really true? I’m pinching myself as I’m saying it and then it evolved where I played a Heritage Classic game with them. He paved the way for a lot of players and I was very fortunate to know him and meet him.”
Smyth had a nose for the net and No. 94 established as a fan-favourite for getting to the crease and putting his body on the line to have a shot at scoring.
“I think going to the hard areas was one of the things I did well, going to the net. … I had to really work on my defensive play early on in my career,” he said. “It’s a team game, but you have to play a well-rounded game to be successful.”
In 2006, Smyth and the Oilers contended for the grandest trophy, the Stanley Cup, but lost in seven games to the Cam Ward-led Carolina Hurricanes.
Smyth thinks the Oilers could have taken the Cup if a right knee injury hadn’t sidelined starting goaltender Dwayne Roloson in the series.
When Smyth wasn’t flying the Oilers nation flag, “Captain Canada” was usually wearing the “C” on top of a red and white sweater. Smyth represented Canada in international competition, winning gold medals at the 2002 Winter Games, world championship tournaments, and at the 1995 world juniors.