Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hooley Smith


Reginald "Hooley" Smith was a wonderful hockey player in the 1920s and 1930s. A cocky player with a nasty streak, there was nothing that Smith could not do. He was described as a "hockey genius" and its easy to see why - a hardnosed winger/center who was an expert defensively (his trademark was his famous hook check) and explosive offensively. He had great speed and a temper with a short fuse.

Smith first became known to hockey fans in 1921 as a member of the Toronto Granites. He quickly became a star with the Granites, leading the OHA Senior league team to the famous Allan Cup in both 1922 and 1923. In 1924 the Granites were selected to represent Canada at the winter Olympics in Chamonix France. Canada easily dominated the tournament, led by Harry Watson's 36 goals in 5 games! Smith scored 17 times in as many games. Canada of course won the gold.

Upon his return from the Olympics, Smith, like several Granites players, became the focus of somewhat of a bidding war. NHL teams were very much interested in his services, and eventually the Ottawa Senators convinced Smith to sign for the 1924-25 season.

Smith spent 3 years in the nation's capital, often playing on a line with Frank Nighbor and Cy Denneny! Talk about a great line! Smith's job was to create room physically for his two great line mates, as well as play strong defensively. He also chipped in strongly offensively, but was criticized for taking too many penalties.

In his final game with the Senators, Smith attacked Harry Oliver of the Bruins in the 1927 Stanley Cup finals. A bloody brawl ensued. When all was said and done, Smith was suspended for one month effective in the next season.

Despite winning the '27 Cup, the cash strapped Senators sold sometimes troublesome Smith to the Montreal Maroons in October 1927, picking up Harry Punch Broadbent in the process. Smith was quickly placed on right wing with Nels Stewart and Jimmy Ward. Eventually Ward was dropped to another line while Babe Siebert moved up on LW. The trio of Smith-Stewart-Siebert instantly became a hit. Siebert's big physical play, Stewart's goal scoring genius and Smith's speed and defense created as perfect a trio that ever played in the National Hockey League. The line is forever known as the "S" Line.

By 1932 both Siebert and Stewart had left the Maroons. In their absence Smith moved to center ice, reuniting with Ward on LW. They were joined by Baldy Northcott on the right wing. The new line managed to accomplish something that S Line never did - bring the Stanley Cup to the Maroons in 1935.

By 1936 the Maroons too were struggling financially and sold their captain to the Boston Bruins. Siebert played just one year in Boston before again being sold to the New York Americans. In New York Smith was a jack-of-all-trades, playing on a line with Rod Beattie and Johnny Sorrell, but also playing on defense with big Joe Jerwa.

Smith's days in New York weren't all good though. His battles with coach Red Dutton were legendary, and eventually cost him his job. Smith was suspended for insubordination in what proved to be his final campaign.

Smith retired with 200 goals and 215 assists for 415 points in 715 games. Those numbers are very impressive considering the era he played in.

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