Mike Smith isn't unlike most Canadians.
Passion for hockey.
Passion for Hip.
So Smith, like most Wednesday, paused to reflect on the passing of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie.
"I remember driving around high school listening to their music with my buddies, and going fishing, having their music on my Discman," Smith started. "I grew up in a town half an hour north of Kingston, less than a thousand people, so I think … It's something exciting, you know, you grow up in a small town, a blue collar town, our claim to fame is a Ford dealership.
"It's tough. It's hard. It's a sad day as a Canadian boy growing up outside of Kingston and the Tragically Hip being such a big part of my life for over 25 years now. I've got to know some of the guys over the years.
"It's obviously a sad day for his family, being a father and a husband, but I think for the bigger family, too -- for the people around Canada that have grown up idolizing this guy. He's been such an iconic figure for Canadian people for so many years. It's a sombre day.
"I'm sure every dressing room in the NHL this morning was listening to the Tragically Hip."
They were, all to honour the 53-year-old Downie, who died Tuesday night of terminal brain cancer at 53.
A fighter, Downie announced his diagnosis in the spring of 2016. The Hip took one final cross-country spin together that summer, a 15-stop tour.
It's in Dallas, though, that has Smith's fondest memory.
Many, many years ago.
"They played the House of Blues," he recounted. "It was a small venue, it was probably one of the more unique concerts I've been to. I got to hang out with them after, have some beers, and just enjoy kind of talking to those guys and seeing how passionate they are about their music, but also about the game of hockey.
"And just having a few minutes to talk to Gord and the rest of the band members, it was a unique experience."
One Smith holds a little dearer, now.
"I think Gord was such a unique writer," Smith said.
"If you watch the way he performs, no one else would be able to imitate what he did."
Not with the same fight.
Not with the same courage.
Not with the same grace, too.
Line of the week goes to goaltender Scott Darling, on stopping Jaromir Jagr twice in 11 seconds late in the third period of a 2-1 Carolina Hurricanes win Thursday: "That's cool for a guy like me. I've played 80 games and he's played 2,000 or something like that." … Sigh of relief for Kris Versteeg, who took consecutive shots off the inside of the knee and upside the noggin against Carolina. He's no worse for wear, but he'll have to break in a new lid after a dent and a crack. Can't spackle that one back together. … Mark Jankowski had five goals and nine points through his first six games in Stockton. … Don't sleep on Andrew Mangiapane, either. … Congrats to goalie prospect Tyler Parsons on his first pro win, a 39-save performance for the Kansis City Mavericks of the ECHL. … Nod to Dillon Dube and Matthew Phillips, who will represent Team WHL in the Canada-Russia Series. … Busy week off the ice for the Flames. Thumbs up for Hockey Inspires Leadership Day, Breakfast With Champions, and another Mark Giordano school visit.
He sounded less like a teenager and more like a grizzled vet in the aftermath of a disappointing outing Thursday. Matthew Tkachuk took his lump after a roughing penalty at the end of the second period led to a power play goal, the game-winner, early in the third of Thursday's loss to the Hurricanes. "I take full responsibility for tonight. It's uncalled for," he said postgame. "That was stupid -- uncalled for at the end of the period. Stuff like that, whether you think it's a penalty or not, you can't put yourself in that position. I take full responsibility for today." Strong words. Stronger, considering the 19-year-old Tkachuk is a veteran of just 84 games. It bodes well that the pesky-yet-skilful agitator understands so early. Certainly bodes well for the future, too, owning it. No running. No hiding. Hitting it head-on. It had to score points with his coach, too, who didn't condone the penalty, but understands his youngest pupil. "He's in the fabric of the game," Gulutzan said Friday morning. "He is in the trenches of the game. He is in the bowels of the game. He's not in the quiet fluffy fun zones. He's in the tough zones and I don't mind that. We need that. You have certain guys that are willing to chew their arm off to win. He's one of them."