Tonight marks the end of the season for the Edmonton Oilers and the end of an era with Ryan Smyth announcing his retirement yesterday.
Smyth took the ice this morning for his final morning skate with the team he’s played 15 seasons with over a long and successful career.
“You try to keep your emotions in check and try to take it all in,” Smyth said. “It went as normal as it could be as far as the drills and stuff but you look up at the rafters and see the banners of the cups and the guys that have retired, their banners and stuff. It’s pretty special, it’s a great building to play in and I’m really looking forward to tonight.”
The minutes in the locker room waiting for the game to begin will be the toughest for Smyth.
“Those are the times where you’ve got to find it within you to dig deep, try to breathe through it and relish this great opportunity that I’ve been in for 18-plus years and try to stick within the game plan and I’m just excited to get to game time.”
Smyth’s teammates are happy for him and are hoping it will be a night to remember for the veteran.
“It would be fun to have a good one for our fans and most importantly, Smytty there in his last game of his career and it’s going to be special for him,” David Perron said.
“You feel for him,” Jordan Eberle said. “It’s a tough situation but the way (General Manager Craig MacTavish) worded it yesterday, it’s a tough time but you should really celebrate his career. He’s had an unbelievable career. I mean, I’m sure if anyone watched him in game one that they’d think about even playing 1,300, 1,200 games or whatever it is, they’d be shocked. You just kind of idolize him. I think for me, there’s guys you play against that you just kind of get the ‘wow factor’ and I tell people I got the chance to play against them. A guy who pops into mind is Teemu Selanne the other night. Ryan’s a guy you can tell people you played with. He’s a special guy and it’ll be a good night for him.”
Smyth is still searching for that 127th career power play goal to take sole possession of the franchise record. Although he has said he wants that distinction and to surpass Glenn Anderson, Smyth also wants to win tonight.
“We want to win the hockey game,” he said. “That’s what the bottom line is. It makes it even more special when, at the end of the day, you get that victory. Just play your game and come out and compete at a high level and bring the energy and would it be nice to chip in a goal or a point? Absolutely. I’m not going to sit here and say I wouldn’t but, at the end of the day, we play to win and that would be exciting for me.”
Perron says he’ll be looking to find his linemate on the ice as much as possible.
“That would be awesome for him,” Perron said. “He certainly deserves that kind of success for his last game. I’m not sure how many shots on goal I’ll have tonight but I’ll try to find him as much as possible.”
Roman Horak was recalled this morning from the Oklahoma City Barons and knows that it is his last audition of the season to prove himself to the Oilers.
“Obviously, it’s not easy to come for one game and do some crazy stuff but I’m just going to do my best and hopefully show off what I can do and we’ll see how it goes,” Horak said.
Horak has exceeded his previous professional career high in points with 45 (19-26-45) in 50 games in the American Hockey League this season. He credits playing with a couple of players, Oilers fans are familiar with, as the reason for his success offensively.
“Obviously I was lucky enough to play with, especially at the end here, with (Mark Arcobello) and Anton (Lander) too. Those are both great players and if you get a guy like that down in the AHL, it will happen. I wouldn’t say I changed a lot, I still try to do what I do best with skating and I think I see the ice pretty well. If I’ve got a guy with me that can pass it back and I can pass it back, it’s a pleasure to play with.”
Linemates aside, there has been some individual improvement for the 22-year-old forward.
“Every year you’re getting more experience and you’re getting older so you know how to play the game and you learn with time. Obviously, the NHL is a different step it’s a different story so it’s still tough for me to play up here and (I’m still trying to) establish myself as an NHL player. Tonight is going to be another audition and I’m looking forward to it and hopefully it will work out.”
Horak also commented on being recalled on an important night in Oil Country; Smyth’s final game.
“That’s huge, especially here in Edmonton… Obviously Ryan’s played here for a long time and he’s got over 1,200 games. It’s a pleasure to be a part of it and great to see him and he’s had a long, great career. It’s a pleasure to be here and be a part of it.”