Stan Smyl, the man they called “Steamer” for his relentless checking and aggressive style, is officially moving out of Canucks hockey operations and into a gig as a team ambassador at age 65. He slides into the new role after 45 seasons with the organization as a player, coach, and executive.
The Alberta native began playing hockey for teams in British Columbia in the spring of 1975 when he joined the New Westminster Bruins of the Western Canada Hockey League for the playoffs.
That major junior opportunity came after he had played the regular season for the Bellingham (WA) Blazers in the BCHL.
Smyl helped win back-to-back Memorial Cup championships for the Bruins under legendary coach Ernie “Punch” McLean in 1977 and ’78. That led to the start of his 13 season NHL career, all with the Canucks, a team he held all of the scoring records for until later surpassed by the likes of Trevor Linden, Markus Näslund and the Sedins.
He was an integral part of the 1982 team, a point-a-game player in the postseason, that became the first in franchise history to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Despite retiring 31 years ago, Smyl remains top-5 in Canucks history in games played, goals, assists, and penalty minutes. He racked up more than 1,500 PIM’s during his time as a hard-nosed winger.
His jersey number-12 was the first retired by the club. He and Henrik Sedin share the record for longest tenure as team captain; eight seasons.
Crossing Paths With Canucks
Mr. Smyl holds a special place in my hockey memories because he played in the first game I ever attended on a press credential, November 1, 1981 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
The Red Wings beat the Canucks 3-1, but I’ll never forget Smyl because I remember thinking at the time, “who the hell is this little such-and-such.” Fighting was a staple of the game in those days and I recall hoping to see at least one unfold on my first nervous night as a reporter/post-game-audio-getter.
Smyl didn’t disappoint. Steamer at 5-foot-8 and 185-pounds took on heavyweight Detroit D-man Jimmy Korn, who checked in at a little over 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. The 3rd-period fight started with slashing minors.
Smyl also went off for roughing with Detroit blueliner Reed Larson in the 2nd period after having picked up an assist on a Thomas Gradin goal late in the 1st period. One point and nine penalty minutes; standard operating procedure in 1981.
The main thing I remember outside of Smyl and Harold Snepsts of Vancouver was Detroit goalie Corrado Micalef claiming postgame that one of the Canucks tried to spit on him. I still have the audio tape.
One would expect Smyl to continue this latest venture as a community and business ambassador with the same diligence he’s always shown for all of his other hockey roles.
“When I moved to Vancouver in 1978, I could not have imagined the positive journey it would become over the next 40-plus years,” Smyl said in a team announcement. “This team and community have meant everything to me and my family. We are truly grateful for all of the relationships and experiences we have shared together.”
Smyl’s wife Jennifer passed away a year ago last month, so adjusting to new challenges have been an unfortunate reality for this hockey elder statesman. The two together were heavily involved in charity work in Vancouver.
Fortunately, this next chapter should be a fun one. No pressure helping make hockey decisions, just a chance to immerse himself in the community he loves for the team he loves.
— By NHL Standards, Canucks Tocchet As Honest As They Come