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Tough decision forces Smid to sidelines

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- Health before hockey.

That's not a hard decision for Calgary Flames defenceman Ladislav Smid.

Not with a wife and twins, not yet two-years-olds, at home.

But it doesn't make watching 59 others take to the ice early Friday morning to kick off training camp any easier.

Nor having to sit out the 2016-17 season any more palpable.

"My family," started Smid, "comes first.

"I want to be healthy for them and I want to have a normal life after my career.

"At this point it would be too big of a risk, I feel like, to try to play through my neck issues. I think the year will help me. Hopefully my neck will settle down a little more.

"I'm only 30 years old, so I would like to be out there helping the team, but it is what it is. You have only one health. It's not like I'm retiring. But for this year, I'm going to have to sit out.

"It's obviously hard, but it's not a decision we made overnight. We talked the whole summer. It wasn't just my decision. It was doctors. I heard so many different opinions. We made the decision together."

It's not easy for the veteran of 10 seasons and 583 skates.

Not knowing if there will be a No. 584.

Not with questions surrounding a neck that underwent surgery in 2010, and another that followed in 2015.

Not after being shut down following what eventually turned out to be a season-ending hit on Dec. 12, 2014 by Simon Depres two seasons ago, and another by Jason Zucker on Feb. 17, 2015.

"It's difficult," Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. "Laddy's a young man, but he's been dealing with this for a while. He had a sense of this. We talked earlier in the summer. You want to give some time after the end of the year just to let everything settle down.

"He's been out here skating with the guys. I think that's a little bit of mental medicine, too, just being around and being active. I think he's doing well.

"Quite frankly, we've talked a lot recently. I think he's excited a little bit about what's the next chapter. For him it's not 'I'm done, done, done.' But your health is your health and if you can't play, you can't play. All in all, I think he's doing okay."

He has, after all, had plenty of time to come to grips with the decision.

And prepare for what could be next.

"Maybe I'll come back and try to play hockey," Smid said. "Maybe not.

"Maybe I'll try to do something else."

'Something else' is the option Smid is left at this junction.

He'll be given the opportunity with is his on-ice activity on hiatus, as least temporarily.

Smid will be joining the Flames, in a variety of capacities still yet to be determined, to keep him active, and his mind on hockey, this season.

"We're going to look at Laddy doing some projects for us, in terms of in the front office and maybe having some scouting assignments for him and integrating him in there," Treliving said.

"But he won't be participating on the ice."

That's the upside.

The downside remains uneasy news for teammates to swallow, however.

"It's such a tough thing to talk about,' Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "He's such a good person. I've grown to know him and his family and his twins well. Hopefully this isn't the end for him. Hopefully he can recover and get this thing straightened out and get back on the ice.

"Anytime something like that, you just wish for the best.

"Honestly, I look at Laddy as a good friend and wish for the best for him off the ice with his family.

"He can't take that risk of playing through an injury like that."

Smid won't.

He will, however, wait to see what's to come.

"If I'm going to get caught in a bad position, like last year, something bad can really happen," he said. "I really want to give it a year, and we'll see where I stand next year.

"We'll see.

"Hopefully it's going to help me."

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