Steve Smith’s name was all over the news this week.
The veteran of 804 NHL games over 16 seasons resigned from his position as an assistant coach with the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, then signed on to handle the same role with the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday.
But his current role is not the focus of this article. It is the stretch of six seasons from 1991 to 1997 when Smith was one of the top defensemen during one of the peak runs of Chicago Blackhawks hockey.
Smith was already a household name before he arrived in Chicago via trade in 1991. Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the sixth round (111th overall) of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, the native of the United Kingdom made his NHL debut during the 1984-85 season. By the following season, he was a fixture on the Oilers’ blue line, although that season ended when Smith committed one of the most infamous mistakes in NHL history:
The Oilers won three Stanley Cups in the next three seasons, though, easing the burden of that gaffe from Smith’s career resume. When the Oilers won the Cup in 1987, captain Wayne Gretzky handed off the trophy to Smith first. In October 1991, Smith was traded to Chicago for Dave Manson and a draft pick that became future Detroit Red Wing Kirk Maltby.
During his time in Chicago, Smith emerged as a worthy partner for Hall of Fame teammate Chris Chelios, giving the Blackhawks one of the better D pairings of the 90s. He helped the Blackhawks reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1992 and played 78 games the following season. But injuries slowly piled up for Smith, who played in 57, 48, 37 and then just 21 games, respectively, in his final four seasons with Chicago.
Smith’s YouTube-worthy highlights from his time in Chicago all involve physical play. There’s this hit on Calgary Flames forward Ronnie Stern that would probably earn a healthy suspension in today’s NHL:
Those same two players would square off in a fight five years later:
Smith announced his retirement following the 1996-97 season, sat out one season, returned for two-plus seasons in Calgary, then retired for good in December 2000.
Smith’s son, Barron, was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the seventh round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.