May 07, 2013
He was never a true scoring sensation of his generation, thanks in part to his frequently playing the back end in that era. Yet his versatility made him an invaluable asset. At times in his career he was a wonderful substitute.
Smaill was very good and sometimes rough star with several different teams. He played both wings and defense with equal proficiency. Playing defense with Art Ross or Odie Cleghorn, Smaill was a Stanley Cup champion with the Montreal Wanderers in 1908 and 1909.
To prove he was no pushover, he also spent 248 minutes sitting in the penalty box. He was noted to be a heavy hitter.
Smaill was also a pioneer of hockey. When Frank and Lester Patrick created the Pacific Coast Hockey Association out west to compete against the National Hockey Association/League, Smaill was their very first recruit, which is quite the compliment for Smaill. He and Frank Patrick had a number of altercations over the years, and that continued out west with Smaill suffering a severe head injury. Though the rivalry was very physical at times, Smaill must have earned the respect of the great Frank Patrick.
Why Smaill was so eager to head out west is a bit of a mystery. There was a A.J. Smaill out of Vancouver who was high up in the league's management, but apparently they were not related. He did appear to line up off-season employment with a YMCA across the border in Washington state and later sold cars in Victoria.