May 22, 2009

Mueller, Smith Pass Away

Sad news today. Robert Meuller has passed away. He was just 28 years old.

Back in 2006 he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He had an operation to remove it, and returned to the ice with Cologne of the German league. The two time Olympian even returned to the national team, competing at the 2008 World Championships in Quebec City. It was his eighth world tourney.

In August 2008 further operations discovered rapidly spreading cancer. He was diagnosed as terminally ill with the incurable glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor. The doctors told him there was nothing they could do for him.

This past season the former Washington Capitals draft pick returned for Cologne for a stretch as the back up goaltender. It was his way of saying goodbye to hockey. He practiced with the team and was even able to get into a couple of games before his health deteriorated to the point that he could no longer participate.

Needless to say, Robert Mueller was an inspiration to many.

“With his strong will, Müller inspired many people in their battle against the terrible disease. He showed us all what it means to never give up," said Franz Reindl, the general secretary of the German Ice Hockey Association.

Snuffy Smith Dies, 95

In other sad news, Clint "Snuffy" Smith also has passed away. At age 95 he was believed to have been the oldest living ex-NHLer.

For 10 seasons, Clint Smith symbolized the successful combination of high skill level and sportsmanship. Smith totaled a mere 24 penalty minutes to go along with 397 career points in 483 NHL games. He was a two-time winner and three-time runner-up in the Lady Byng trophy voting. In fact, he was the first player to win this award with two different teams. He had four penalty free seasons.

A native of Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Smith enjoyed a successful amateur career with the Saskatoon Wesley Juniors. He turned professional with the New York Rangers organization at the age of 18 and played his first full NHL season with the Rangers in 1937- 38. Following his rookie season Smith's strengths were recognized as he was runner-up for the Lady Byng trophy. The following season he won this prestigious award -- a feat which he duplicated in 1943-44.
Smith was also part of the New York Rangers' famous Stanley Cup team of 1939-40.

Prior to the 1943-44 campaign, after six seasons with the Rangers, Smith was sold to the Chicago Black Hawks. Smith's first season with the Hawks was very productive as he won his second Lady Byng trophy and set a NHL record for a 50 game season of 49 assists. During this same year he and his Chicago linemates Bill Mosienko and Doug Bentley, set a NHL record for a line with 219 total points.

Smith played four seasons with Chicago before retiring from the NHL after the 1946-47 season to become the playing coach of the Tulsa Oilers of the United States Hockey League. His first season with that club brought Smith a league MVP award and a berth in the USHL semi-finals. The following season Smith coached the USHL champion St. Paul Saints, the New York Rangers' farm club in that league.

After his retirement from hockey, Smith moved back to Vancouver, where his involvement with the sport has continued. Prior to the NHL setting up a fund for "needy" players and families, Smith helped found the British Columbia Benevolent Hockey Association and served as its president for six years. In addition, he maintained a strong interest in the Junior and Juvenile hockey on the North Shore, and was active in charitable endeavors of the Vancouver Canucks Alumni.

Clint "Snuffy" Smith was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.

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