FAREWELL TO A HERO

A well known city ice hockey journalist never tires of telling the tale of the press release he received from the Pirates in 1994.

The main crux of the release centred around a speedy forward called Brent Bobyck, now of Nottingham Panthers. A line at the bottom mentioned that Pirates had also signed a Canadian by the name of Randy Smith.

As a footnote to a magnificent ice hockey career Sunday's final match was probably equally as understated, everything that came in between is the stuff of ice hockey folklore.

There have been whole chapters of books designated to the mesmerising effect 'The Great Randini had on ice hockey defenceman the length and breadth of the country.

How were these men suppose to know what they were up against after his low key entry into the country? Very few would have known that he won an Olympic silver medal with Canada in 1992, and although it ranks as one of his proudest moments, it is not something he tends to slip into conversation.

"When I was going through my stuff while we have been packing, I found an old newspaper article that my father sent me, which showed I was only one of seven people from my home province of Saskatchewan to have won an Olympic medal and up to 1992 I was the only male to have won one at the Winter Olympics.

"That is something that I am obviously very proud of and is one of the highlights of my career along with making three appearances in the NHL with Minnesota."

It is that pride and love of his origins that are taking Smith back to his beloved Saskatoon and, as a man who married his childhood sweetheart Barbara who he has known since the age of five, it is obvious why he feels it is important that his children, Kendal aged six, and Cassidy three, have the stability from which to build the relationships that will shape their futures.

"Kendall is now at that age when you begin to form relationships with people who will remain your close friends for the rest of your life," commented Smith. "I think it is important that both Kendall and Cassidy have the stability now so that they can do that.

"I remember when I first moved to England, I did not have a clue what to expect and did not think I would know anybody over here until I played my first match for Pirates at Bracknell and looked in the programme and saw they had Rick Smith playing for them who had lived about 10 houses away from me when I was growing up."

Smith made the move to Pirates, having spent successful seasons in Switzerland and Austria after his Olympic experience, following a phone call from Cam Plante while he was on the road playing roller hockey of all things.

A highly successful season with Pirates on a personal note, ended disappointingly with Pirates being relegated and Smith s services were snapped up by Cardiff.

Two injury ravaged seasons almost put a premature end to Smith s career and only major back surgery prolonged it. A season in Newcastle was all that lay between Smith and a return to Pirates, this time the announcement was far more triumphant, a true sporting hero was back and so were the good times.

His influence on the ice was immense, the league s players player of the year for the second time as a Pirates player in his first year back, plus the highlight of winning the Christmas Cup.

That was followed by an unscheduled move into coaching and the sort of season most coaches do not experience in a lifetime in the sport.

"I d have loved to have gone out winning the British NationalLeague Championship, that would have been the ideal," said Smith.

"The team worked as hard as they could and I gave it my best shot and I think the fans appreciated that and they certainly gave me a lot. The fans in Peterborough are definitely the best I have played in front of and it is something I will definitely miss.

"The hardest part of all was leaving the rink after the game on Sunday and knowing I would not be playing in front of a crowd like that again."