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Smid anxiously awaiting clearance to return

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Ladislav Smid has waited. He’ll have to be tolerant a little while longer.

Smid, who underwent neck surgery last February, won’t be cleared in time to be a full participant when Calgary Flames training camp hits full swing Friday.

The 29-year-old won’t get clearance to crash and bang with the rest of the Flames faithful until mid-October, he estimates on adviser of his doctor.

“I was hoping I was going to be ready for the beginning of camp, but he suggested I wait a couple of more weeks,” Smid said Thursday from Canada Olympic Park’s WinSport, site of fitness testing and the first four days of Calgary’s training camp. “Hopefully it won’t take that long. I’m shooting for middle of October, maybe earlier to be cleared for contact.

“My neck has been feeling much better. He hasn’t cleared me for contact yet, but that should happen within the next few weeks. I feel good, I’ve been skating the past five or six weeks without contact situations. We want to be cautious. This is my first time having the surgery. I’ve got to be patient but I’m really eager to get back and I don’t want to fall behind these guys.”

Flames coach Bob Hartley has seen it first-hand.

“I sat with him because he was kicking doors, he wanted to be in practice,” Hartley said. “He can’t get hit. We can’t put him with a yellow jersey out there and we have a kid that takes a run at him. He’s not cleared. He’s not cleared for contact. He’s cleared to skate. He’s cleared for everything except contact.

“I’m not going to put him in a situation where he might get hit, or I’m not going to put a kid whose really ready to make a push to our team, and he’s coming in and he wants to hit everything that moves and suddenly he’s faced with [Smid] and whether he hits him and gets in trouble or doesn’t hit him and still gets in trouble, it’s a no-win situation.

“We told him that following the first four days, we’re going to have two groups and we’ll get him in a group. He’s chomping at the bit. We all know [Smid]’s character. He wants to play. He’s in unbelievable shape, but he’s just tired of skating, I guess.”

Smid last played Jan. 19, a month after taking a high hit from then-Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Simon Despres. The silver lining came a few weeks prior to being shut down when he and wife Ashley welcomed twins, son Ladislav and daughter Zoey.

It gave the veteran of 561 National Hockey League games new perspective on his situation.

“You learn that hockey is not the most important thing in my life,” Smid said. “When I got back from my surgery, I couldn’t even hold my kids and they are new-borns and that sucked. Still, I’m a professional hockey player and I want to get back as soon as possible. At the same time, you have a life after hockey as well.”

But where a healthy Smid fits into the picture on Calgary’s blueline remains muddy at best.

Including the Frydlant, Czech Republic native, the Flames have seven defencemen on one-way contracts. The others include Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie, Dennis Wideman, Kris Russell, and Deryk Engelland.

Knocking on the door seeking full-time employment include 15-game NHL veteran Tyler Wotherspoon, rookie pro Kenney Morrison, Czech import Jakub Nakladal, as well as Aaron Johnson, Douglas Murray and Ryan Wilson, all on professional try-outs.

That suits Smid fine.

“I think it’s going to be good,” he said. “You want to have competition in your D-core. We push each other pretty good and that makes the team better. I think it’s going to be great, we have one of the deepest D-cores in the NHL. It’s only good for our team.”

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