Ryan Smyth fittingly ends career on a Saturday night | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaRyan Smyth fittingly ends career on a Saturday night

Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014 | 11:09 AM

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Ryan Smyth (94) has 386 goals and 842 points to his credit heading into the 1,270th and final game of his prolific NHL career. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Ryan Smyth (94) has 386 goals and 842 points to his credit heading into the 1,270th and final game of his prolific NHL career. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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Ryan Smyth played 18 years in the NHL and will be remembered for his success playing Canada on the international scene. His teammates will remember him for his work ethic and passion for the game.

This is the way Ryan Smyth should conclude his career.

Sure, he would love to be preparing for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Sure, he would like to have something on the line, when his Edmonton Oilers entertain the Vancouver Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).

But the 38-year-old Smyth is one of those passionate players who only needs a patch of ice, a stick, gloves and a puck to gain some enjoyment, some satisfaction.

In his farewell press conference on Friday, Smyth opened his remarks by relaying how it was his dream growing up in Banff, Alta., to play for the Oilers on Saturday nights, on Hockey Night in Canada.

And that's how it will end for Smyth.

Maybe his team will win one final time for No. 94 (did you know he wore No. 10 the first time he played for Edmonton?). Maybe he will score one final, Smyth-type goal through his presence around the crease. Maybe he'll help his team one final time with a screen.

When you talk to teammates and coaches, the common theme has been how they marvelled at Smyth's work ethic and joyful attitude to simply go out to play and compete. Everything he achieved - the longevity, the 11 times he scored 20 or more goals, the four 30-plus goal seasons, the international success - was because he never took a night off.

Oilers captain Andrew Ference won a Memorial Cup, played for Canada at a world juniors, has gone to three Stanley Cup finals, winning once, and has played with many talented players like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Patrice Bergeron and Jarome Iginla, yet he still learned from Smyth as a teammate in their one season together.

"He's one of those guys who had to put his nose to the grindstone," Ference said. "He has spent his entire career in the tough areas around the net.

"He drove me crazy when I played against him because he just wouldn't go away. He wouldn't back down. He was always there. It's been a real honour to get to know him and be his teammate.

"I've been fortunate to have played with some amazing people in my career, guys who have played at that level for that many games. They all have these same qualities. They absolutely love the game and that feeling never leaves them. They feel privileged to put on the jersey every night in this league.

"And they're workers. There is no secret to their success. They work their behinds off. They get ready for every night and every battle.

"Like [Oilers head coach] Dallas [Eakins] said, 'You want a guy like that to rub off on the younger players and put it into their own game.' You talk about leadership, that's what it is. It's showing guys how to get it done."

When you see where the Oilers are in the standings - 29th overall with one game to play - you wonder if the young talent on this team noticed the same lessons that Ference did playing alongside Smyth. Maybe it will click in next season.

'Captain Canada'

Smyth will play in his 1,363rd NHL game, regular season and playoffs combined, on Saturday. He enters his farewell affair with 414 regular-season and playoff goals, 901 points.

Fans remember his tears at the 2007 trade deadline, when, because of $100,000 a year difference in contract extension negotiations, Smyth was traded to the New York Islanders. For the most part, Smyth kept his tears in check on Friday as he talked about his career, but the emotions were still evident.

While he came close to winning the Stanley Cup with the Oilers' unlikely run eight years ago, most of his team success has been on the international scene, where he earned the nickname "Captain Canada."

He played for Canada 13 times in the 1995 world juniors, eight world championships, the 2002 and 2006 Olympics, 2004 World Cup of Hockey and 2012 Spengler Cup. He won twice at the world championship (2003, 2004), Olympic gold in Salt Lake City and each time in his lone world junior, World Cup and Spengler Cup appearances.

Smyth played a record 78 games for Canada at the world championship. It would have been nice to watch Smyth suit up one final time for Canada at next month's worlds in Minsk, Belarus, but that's not going to happen. Team Canada general manager Rob Blake confirmed via e-mail that there will be no invitation waiting for Smyth.

So this is the way No. 94 should conclude his career. On a Saturday night. On Hockey Night in Canada. Because, like he said Friday, that's what he dreamed of when he was a boy all those years ago.

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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