December 01, 2012

Alf Smith

Hockey has always been a family sport. And one of the first great families of hockey was the Smiths - brothers Tommy and Alf would become Hockey Hall of Famers. A third brother, Harry, was also a notable player.

Lets take a look at Alf Smith here. 

Born in Ottawa in 1873, Alf Smith became a hockey legend in the nation's capital. That was never more so evident than in the early 1900s, when Alf helped the Ottawa Silver Seven win three consecutive Stanley Cups - in 1904, 1905 and 1906. 

Alf was noted as a bruising player, "the toughest, meanest player ever to call Ottawa home," according to the great book Kings of the Ice. While Ottawa fans probably loved Smith's exuberance and bravado, not to mention how much open ice he created for the rest of his team, it is easy to see how fans elsewhere saw him as one of hockey's early great villains.

Smith loved to play the body, and he did so with reckless abandon and with calculated thought all at the same time. He knew his hard hitting play was the key to both his success and his teams. He never got a lot of credit for being a good scorer or a good two-way player. He was Mr. Crash And Bang, perhaps like the modern day Rick Tocchet or Milan Lucic. Perhaps Claude Lemieux is the better comparison, with their Stanley Cup success.

Smith and Ottawa may have found even more success if he was not barred from playing the game at the turn of the 20th century. No, it was not for rough play. He was suspended from all of amateur sport for taking a $100 payment to play lacrosse. As a result he stayed off the ice in 1899 and 1900.

He also found controversy for his physical play, of course. In 1907 he faced two months in jail or a total of $39 in fines for hitting Hod Stuart with his stick. And in 1908 Pittsburgh hockey fans didn't know what to think of this roughian. Pittsburgh Duquesne (WPHL) outright released him because of his physical play. He was picked up by the Pittsburgh Bankers, of the same league, two days later, but less than 2 weeks later he was released for being too physical, again.

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