This past Tuesday, the hockey community lost another of it’s legends.
Clint Smith was a Hall of Fame center with both the New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as an icon in the Vancouver area hockey scene.
He was the last surviving member of the 1940 New York Rangers Stanley Cup team, and passed away at age 95.
Born in Saskatchewan, Smith’s hockey career began with Springfield of the CAHL and Saskatoon of the WCHL.
He then moved on to the NWHL where he became a star for the Vancouver Lions. Smith would lead the league in goals, as a rookie, with 25 then lead in points the following two seasons.
In 1936, Smith played with the Philadelphia Ramblers in the I-AHL (now known as the AHL).
That season, he would see two games with the New York Rangers, scoring his first career NHL goal.
In his second full season with New York (1938-39), Smith led his team in scoring and was the recipient of the Lady Byng Trophy having just two penalty minutes all season.
When asked decades later how he managed to go 48 games with just two minutes in penalties Smith replied with a wink, “Ah, it was nuthin’. I knew the referees.”
In 1939-40, Smith would help bring a Stanley Cup to New York by defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games.
“I can’t explain the feeling of winning the Stanley Cup. It’s the ultimate,” Smith said.
“It’s something you always strive for—just to get into the Stanley Cup Final. And then when you win, it’s something you always remember.”
The Rangers would not bring another Cup to the Big Apple for another 54 years.
In September of 1943, Smith found himself as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.
On a line with Hall of Famers Bill Mosienko and Doug Bentley, he tallied 23 goals and set an NHL record with 49 assists.
It would also see a second Lady Byng Trophy for the star center.
He would lay claim on another NHL record the following season, scoring four goals in one period against Montreal on March 4, 1945.
Smith would leave the NHL after the 1946-47 season with 161 goals and 236 assists in 483 regular season games.
More astounding is his miniscule 24 minutes in penalties accumulated in that span, which included a four year span without even a minor call.
He joined the Tulsa Oilers of the USHL the next year, leading the league in scoring and winning the league’s MVP.
For the next three season’s as a player coach for the St. Paul Saints.
He would play two games for the Cincinnati Mohawks of the AHL in 1951-52, becoming a full time bench boss.
Smith then returned to his adopted home, playing old timers games in the NWHL.
Building support for the game of hockey in the British Columbia area, Smith founded the British Columbia Hockey Benevolent Association and held several positions in the organization, including president.
His dedication helped build a solid hockey market in Vancouver and led to the formation of the Vancouver Canucks.
The association that he founded is now commonly known as the Canucks’ Alumni.
Smith was finally elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991 and was the oldest living, Honored Member at the time of his death.
Ever lyal to his NHL beginnings, Smith participated in the Rangers’ 75th Anniversary celebrations at Madison Square Garden in 2001.
During the 2004-05 NHL Lockout, the league made a practice of sending the Stanley Cup to past members of winning teams.
Unlike the present day, players on a Cup winner did not get to take the Cup home for a day.
That opportunity came for Smith on July 26, 2005. Fans, friends and family (his daughter was flown in from Florida) made the visit to North Vancouver to honor him. ”
Smith was as proud then as he was 65 years before when his team claimed the Cup.
“Howie Meeker brought the Cup out to Vancouver Island, and while it was out here, they phoned and asked me if I would like it for a day,” Smith said. “And of course, I said I’d be glad to take it for a day.”
“We had a pretty good display. It was nice. But I had to laugh — the Cup was so small, you could carry it around. You couldn’t carry the Cup that we won around. I think we had 13 rings on that Cup — I think they have five now.”