April 28, 2015

Kenny Smith

Kenny Smith was a junior stand out with the Oshawa Generals in the mid 1940s. He once scored nine goals in one game with the Generals. He then led the Generals to the Memorial Cup finals in 1943, scoring a combined 31 goals and 54 points in 21 playoff games.

With dominant numbers like that the Boston Bruins were willing to give Smith every chance to make the team and change their fortunes around.

The 5'7" 150lb left winger stepped directly into the NHL from junior in 1944-45, scoring a very respectable 20 goals and 34 points in 49 games. He added seven more points in the Stanley Cup playoffs, tying him with Herb Cain for the team lead.

For his efforts Smith was recognized as runner up (to Toronto goalie Ulcers McCool) for the Calder trophy as NHL rookie of the year in 1945.

As NHL players returned their respective teams from their various World War II commitments, Smith's role on the team was diminished in 1945-46. He split the year between the Bruins and their farm team in Hershey, but was back in the NHL for the Stanley Cup playoffs. He contributed four assists in eight games, but also gained applause for his checking of Montreal's Rocket Richard in the Stanley Cup final.

"Pound for pound, he is one of the best players in the NHL," said an impressed Dick Irvin, coach of the victorious Montrealers.

Over the next four seasons Smith was a regular with the Bruins, playing in 237 consecutive games. He returned to the 20 goal mark once and generally putting up solid numbers in the playoffs. Yet he remained one of the most anonymous players in the National Hockey League. He was overshadowed by his linemates Johnny Pierson and Paul Ronty. He may have been better known for his likeness to the entertainer Danny Kaye.

Smith's time in Boston came to an end in November 1950. Fourteen games into the season he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a big trade with Fern Flaman and Phil Maloney for Leo Boivin, Bill Ezinicki and Vic Lynn.

But it was no fresh start for Smith, at least not at the National Hockey League level. He never played for the Leafs. In fact he never played another game in the league.

For the next seven season Smith, whose brother Don also played in the NHL and other brother Bunny played in the minor leagues, continued to play well at the American Hockey League level, skating with the Pittsburgh Hornets, Providence Reds and Hershey Bears.

In 331 NHL games Ken Smith scored 78 goals, 93 assist and 171 points. He added another 8 goals and 21 points in 30 Stanley Cup playoff contests.

On September 26th, 2000 Smith passed away in his home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The 76 year old had suffered a heart attack.

He had moved from Boston to Pennsylvania in 1951, opening Smith's Distributors, which he and his wife operated until 1970. In 1972 he opened Kenny Smith's Sharp Edge, a sporting goods store he operated until 1997.

Smith also coached three championship seasons with the Franklin and Marshall College club hockey team. He then coached the "Boyds Bugs" hockey team of Lebanon, and also led them to three consecutive championship seasons. But Smith had to retire from coaching in 1982 due to another heart attack.

He tried to fill his time away from the rink by joining the local Kiwanis Club.


Amanda Smith said...

Kenny was my grandfather. He actually died in Lancaster General Hospital after a massive heart attack. His home was in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania - not Lancaster. Though Elizabethtown is a town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

His wife, Dottie, passed away three days ago (6/5/16) at the age of 95. She had been in ill health for a few years and passed away after a bone cancer diagnosis. She was a spitfire until the end. She never really moved on after my grandfather passed so I know that they are finally back in each other's arms.

Thanks for the great article on my grandfather!

Amanda Smith

Unknown said...

Amanda, wanted to say what a great person and coach your grampa was. Played for him the last year he had the Jr. Icer's based out of Hershey in the early 80's and don't want to forget your gramma Dottie. A real sweetheart and an intrical part of the Jr. team and hockey shop. I still have the 652 Vac u tack skates that Coach sold to me 29 year's ago. Great people!