The Vancouver Canucks drafted Alberta born Tim Smith
in the ninth round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The shift playmaking center recorded over 90 points in each of
his last two seasons in the WHL playing for both Spokane and Swift
Current. Currently in his second season
with Vancouver’s ECHL affiliate squad in Columbia, South Carolina, Smith is
chomping at the bit to gain the attention of those who will call him up to the
next level of professional hockey.
The Columbia Inferno are in the upper third in ECHL
standings and appear to be playoff bound once again. Led by Smith, the Inferno have a handful of players who have
either AHL or NHL experience, sometimes both.
Coming off an exciting 4-3 OT victory over the
Florida Everblades, Hockey’s Future had the chance to speak with the Vancouver
HF: Rochfort Bridge,
Alberta is a tiny town about an hour NW of Edmonton. Where did you actually play as a kid growing up?
TS: I played in Mayerthorpe actually [about
7km/3.5M away]. I grew up playing there
and then I played Bantam in Spruce Grove which was my first year moving away
HF: Was there an outdoor community rink near Rochfort Bridge for you
to play on?
TS: No, the nearest rink was in Mayerthorpe. Our team would consist of the ten kids who actually signed up
(laughs). We’d be playing against
Edson, Hinton, Whitecourt, Barrhead and some of those bigger towns and we’d
always hold our own which was good.
HF: Now you’re playing in South Carolina, is there a bit of culture shock there?
TS: Yeah it was a little bit different. You have to get used to the ice because it
isn’t obviously quite as good. I knew I
had a chance to play in the ECHL after the contract I signed and I’m happy with
the way things have gone and I like it down here.
HF: What are the fan turnouts like typically?
TS: We get around 4000-6000 so it’s decent. I played Junior in Spokane and Swift Current
and I compare it almost exactly the same for fans.
HF: Because you play in a place that isn’t known as a hockey hotbed,
do players have anonymity or are you recognized a lot?
TS: It all depends on what circle you’re in. If you go to a function or something with the team obviously
you’re going to be known but I wouldn’t say it’s comparable to if you were up
in Canada. Up there you’re going to be
better known but this is nice sometimes too.
HF: What are some of the things players do after games in South
TS: We have our local hangouts where we like to go to and guys golf a
lot which is really good to take advantage of year round (today it’s 66
F). We take advantage of the pool too
when it gets to spring, playing football around the pool, and we have some
HF: Since arriving in Columbia, what has been your best, or most
eye-opening experience as a player?
TS: I think just learning how to play against men. From playing in Junior where it’s a lot
younger, you come here and learn how to be a professional and prove yourself
against other players who have been to the AHL or the NHL. You hope the people up above will take
notice of what you are doing and give you a shot.
HF: It would be a stretch for the [former] “East
Coast” League but it’s too bad there isn’t a franchise in Canada so you could
be a little closer to home.
TS: Yeah but I guess they’re going to Victoria
next year. Honestly though I’m hoping
this is going to be my last year in this league. I want to get up there and play for the (Manitoba) Moose or any
AHL team that will take me.
HF: Being the top scorer on the Columbus Inferno,
what’s kept you from being called up to Manitoba in your opinion?
TS: At this point I’m honestly not sure. They’ve made a few call ups and in my heart
I’m hoping they’re just waiting for a centermen to go down but I’m really not
too sure. I’m just trying to play my
game and I just figure that if I keep putting up the numbers eventually they
won’t be able to hold me back. I think
maybe they’re waiting for me to step up and give me that right opportunity
because I feel I had a good year here last year too. I’m just hoping they’re waiting for the right opportunity to give
me the ice time up there that I need so I can show them what I can do.
HF: Is it tough seeing fellow prospects Brandon
Nolan, Jesse Schultz, and Alexandre Burrows being called up ahead of you?
The guys on my team that I’ve been playing with have been called up and
it’s discouraging to see other guys go up.
I’m confident in my game and I know I can play with all those guys so I
feel that if I get my opportunity I’ll be able to show them how I can play.
HF: Who are your linemates with the Columbia
TS: I’m playing with Barrie Moore and Robin
Carruthers. Barrie Moore actually
played for the Oilers a little. He’s a
great player and just a good guy so I can learn a lot from him. Carruthers is a guy out of college but he’s
turned into a really good East Coast player and he gets a lot of points.
HF: I believe the Oilers got Moore in when they
traded Miro Satan to Buffalo.
TS: Yeah, Satan for Craig Miller and Barrie
HF: The Inferno has a poll running on its website
right now asking which player has made the most impact on the team this season
and you’re currently heads above the field.
How do you feel you’re making an impact this year?
TS: Oh really!
I just know that the coach is using me as the number one center and I’ve
got to go out there and play against every other team’s top D-men. I’m a smaller player but I use my speed and
just try to be good defensively but when push comes to shove I want to be the
guy to put the puck in the net or distribute to somebody who can.
HF: Like you said, you’re not a big guy so what
do you do to compensate in a sport where bigger guys have become the norm?
TS: Basically I try to rely on quickness and that
“Canadian head on my shoulders” to always be looking around and making
plays. I consider myself more of a
passer and distributor so I try to use my wingers and be in a support role for
everybody on the ice.
HF: Players are often categorized as being
scorers, two-way forwards, or power forwards… what would you classify your
style as being?
TS: I would say I’m a playmaker. If I get 20-25 goals I’m happy but I’m
looking for 50-60 assists every year.
HF: Anybody who’s not in the NHL is always
compared to someone who is. Who have
you drawn comparisons to?
TS: I play a little bit like Darcy Tucker, I get
a lot of penalty minutes, but maybe like Cliff Ronning too but I want to play
with a little bit more of an edge.
HF: This is your second season in the ECHL, are you satisfied with
TS: I feel like last year I worked really hard and I had 59
points. This year I feel like I could
get like 70-80 so I think that my development is still going. Now I’m just looking for that opportunity to
move up and show what I can do in the American League and put up number there.
HF: Who has been your best influence on your hockey career thus far?
TS: Definitely it has been my brother. [Buddy] was the MVP of the ECHL last year and now plays pro in
Germany. Just from growing up and
playing pond hockey and everything he’s taught me, he’s got to be biggest
influence for sure.
HF: Of all the linemates you’ve ever had, who have you enjoyed playing
with the most?
TS: I liked playing with Dwayne Ulmer, Duncan Milroy, right now Barrie
Moore. I’ve had some really good
linemates. Anybody who can put the puck
in the net, I like to feed’em so hopefully they’ll bury the goals!
HF: How closely do you follow the Canucks and the Moose throughout the
TS: The Canucks not so much because it seems like a little bit farther
of a goal right now, but the Moose I notice if they’re struggling or
whatever. You don’t want them to
struggle but at the same time you want them to need you. You want them to do well because hopefully
that will be your team soon enough but it’s hard, it really is.
HF: What would you consider to be a successful
year for yourself personally?
TS: If I end up playing in the ECHL all year I
just hope we can get back to the final.
For myself I hope I lead the team in scoring and be an impact player in
this league and just to let the AHL teams know that I’m going to be ready next
year and hopefully I get a chance.