Flyers Alumni Remember Greg Smyth

Greg Smyth, a veteran of 12 pro hockey seasons that included 228 regular seasons games and 12 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs, passed away on Feb. 16, 2018 after battling a terminal form of cancer.  He was 51 years old.

 

Smyth was born on April 23, 1966 in Oakville, Ontario. An intimidating physical presence at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, “Birddog” was a rugged defensive defenseman who was never shy about dropping the gloves. From his junior hockey days with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights and throughout his career, Smyth was quick to come to a teammate’s defense and took it as a personal affront when an opponent jostled his team’s goaltender or skill players.

 

Greg was a tough and physical player who would go to battle for his team. If he lost a battle, he’d want to go again, as soon as possible,” recalls Flyers president Paul Holmgren, who served as an assistant coach for the team when Smyth first broke into the NHL.

 

More important, he was a good man. He was a battler off the ice, too. He fought his illness with all he had. He’s going to be missed.”

 

The Flyers selected Smyth in the second round (22nd overall) of the 1984 NHL Draft. After coming through the farm system via the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears, Smyth was a one-game fill-in player for Mike Keenan's 1986-87 team and then a semi-regular the next season, appearing in 48 regular season games and dressing in five of seven playoff tilts in 1987-88.

 

In hockey parlance, Smyth was an old-school “beauty”. Former Flyers equipment manager Kevin Cady chuckles at the memory of his favorite story involving Smyth.

 

Bob Clarke [then the Flyers general manager] told me to watch him because he was buying bags of chips from the vending machine during his rookie training camp in the Voorhees Coliseum. Greg told me he didn't think anyone saw him buy them,” Cady said.

 

The defenseman compiled 192 regular season penalty minutes and 38 more in the Flyers' first-round series with the Washington Capitals. Smyth had one goal and seven points in his 49 career games as a Flyer.

 

On July 25, 1988, the Flyers traded Smyth and a 1989 third-round draft pick (John Tanner) to the Quebec Nordiques for defenseman Terry Carkner. Over the remainder of his 228-game NHL career, Smyth played for Quebec, the Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks as well as numerous minor league clubs. He retired in 2000.

 

 

He was well-liked by his teammates in the locker room and respected by opponents, too.  Greg had sort of a journeyman career, going back and forth between teams in the NHL and the minor leagues, but he fwas a good player who loved the game and gave his all,” recalls Flyers Alumni Association president Brad Marsh, who was teammates with Smyth in 1987-88.