Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith is one of the best puck-handling goaltenders in the NHL. He became the first goalie to record his first professional win, get a shutout and score a goal on the same night with Lexington of the ECHL in 2002-03. Fast-forward 10 years later to last Saturday when Smith became the first goalie in Phoenix/Winnipeg franchise history and just the 11th goaltender in NHL history to score a goal when he registered an empty-netter against Detroit. Off the ice Smith is just as intriguing as his record-setting stats.
Kathryn Tappen: Describe the goal.
Mike Smith: It was late in the game, we were up two goals with under 10 seconds left to play. Eventually a guy at center ice tried to dump it in but it got blocked and went up to the sideboard. I looked up at the clock and there was about three seconds left. I didn't even really try to score; I was just shooting and hoping to get it away quick. I was fortunate enough that the puck made it there on time.
KT: What have the past couple of days been like for you?
MS: It's been like any other time, but more text messages and calls from friends, family and former teammates, which has been nice. I've heard from a bunch of former teammates who said, "I always knew you could do it; I always knew you would do it one day." I appreciate everyone's comments and support.
KT: You actually did do it once before, with Lexington (ECHL).
MS: It felt a lot different this time. In the [ECHL] it was a rim puck and I got back behind the net and I shot it that way. I witnessed it going in. I think there were about 30 seconds left in the game still. We were up 1-0. I would never attempt that now in the NHL. This time there was not a lot of time left on the clock. I didn't believe it was going to count. I thought the time had expired because I didn't actually see the puck go in. All the boys were in front of my face, more excited than I was. I kept asking, "Does it count?" And all the boys said yes. It was crazy, but a pretty cool thing to deal with.
KT: Where does it rank among your career accomplishments?
MS: I've never been one to take pride in self-achievements. It's more fun to win as a team. But to play the way we did against the Detroit Red Wings and to be able to score a goal was a huge bonus. I recognize it is a pretty cool achievement, but I would rather win the hockey game.
KT: Did you get the game puck?
MS: Yep. Got the puck and kept the stick. I'm sure it'll be put on a plaque in my office when I get home sometime.
KT: Marty Turco, a very good friend of yours, told me he was glad it wasn't your driver in your hand because there's no way you would have hit the net.
MS: (laughs) He would bring up my golf game.
KT: He also said he likes your hair better these days.
MS: (laughs) That's the first person I've heard who said they like it better. Enough of this; I'm growing my hair back. I want people to know who I am.
KT: You and Marty Turco go way back; you even lived in his new house in Dallas before he did.
MS: Yeah, I did. I think he was back home in Canada and I was down in Dallas early for rookie camp. I was in his house for a few weeks before he was. I wanted to make sure I got everything settled before he and his family got there.
KT: Is it true there are "his and his" chairs because you spent so much time together in the house?
MS: We spent a lot of time in those chairs after games together, many late nights.
KT: Well, Marty takes credit for introducing you to your wife, Brigitte Acton. He said you owe him.
MS: I can’t give him full credit for "officially" introducing us. It was his golf tournament. She was an Olympic and World Cup skier for Canada. She was more of a celebrity at the time than I was. I was fortunate enough to be in the group behind her. It was one of those long days on the golf course, a seven-hour round, so I got to spend some time with her and try to put in a good word for myself.
KT: What is it like having a wife who is competitive and understands professional athletics the way you do?
MS: She's unbelievable. She's such a great wife and mother to my kids. She's my supporting cast. I really believe that having someone who understands what I go through plays a huge hand in being successful. She trained ridiculously hard for what she did and only gets a chance once every four years to compete at that high level, and then she only races for about 50 seconds. It's amazing how much those Olympians work at their [sport] for a short period of time where they have to be their best. I talk to her a lot about my own situations on the ice. She's always there for me.
KT: You and Brigitte have two sons, Aksel and Ajax. Where did their names originate from?
MS: Aksel is a Norwegian name; we liked it because it was different. Ajax, we got married in Aspen on Ajax Mountain, so it has a lot of meaning.
KT: I wasn’t sure if you got Aksel from Axl Rose, since I know you love music and playing the guitar.
MS: I do love to play the guitar. I bring the guitar on the road for long road trips and serenade myself in my room. I don't like to play in front of people, only my kids because they don't understand that I'm not as good as I think I am. My youngest is only 10 months old and is in love with music. I'm sure he'll be a lot better than I am.
"I have zero control over it. We have the highest paid DJ in the league with BizNasty [Paul Bissonnette]. He's in charge of that and does very well of it."
-- Smith on playing music in the locker room
KT: Who are your musical influences?
MS: Being from Kingston, Ontario, I have to be a Tragically Hip fan, it's just in our blood. Since I was young they have been an inspiration to me. I've gotten to know a few of the band members too so they are at the top of my list.
KT: Do you control the music in the locker room?
MS: I have zero control over it. We have the highest paid DJ in the league with BizNasty [Paul Bissonnette]. He's in charge of that and does very well of it.
KT: Speaking of your childhood, you played fast-pitch softball and your team won seven Ontario championships and two Canadian championships. Not to mention you almost played in 2001 World Junior Championship, except it coincided with hockey playoffs.
MS: I played until I was 18 and it was probably one of the biggest decisions I had to make in my life. We had a great group. I learned so much about being an athlete playing ball. One of my best coaches growing up was my ball coach Greg Orr. He pounded in our heads the importance of fundamentals, and I think that really carried over into my hockey career and I'm very fortunate to have been able to play for a coach like that. I really believe that a big part of why I am the athlete I am today is because I was able to do other things instead of just play one sport.
KT: As a Blue Jays fan, are you rooting for former Jays manager John Farrell and the Red Sox in the World Series?
MS: I can't root for the Sox. I can't bring myself to do it because I am such a die-hard Blue Jays fan and the Sox are in the same division.
KT: So Cardinals it is?
MS: As long as the Sox don't win I'm happy.