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Q & A with Ladislav Smid

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers
Ladislav Smid returned to the Oilers lineup on Sunday after missing seven games with an ankle and leg injury that was suffered during a collision with Ethan Moreau in practice. Smid had a strong showing in his first game back, with a +2 rating against the Blackhawks.

Having only recently turned 22, Smid’s game has developed to the point where he is now logging nearly 20 minutes each and every night. He's added a physical element to his game and is one of the blueliners head coach Craig MacTavish can count on to play in any situation.

We recently sat down with Smid and covered a wide variety of topics with the second-year blueliner.

Q: Which player do you try and model your game after?

Every player has his own style so I’m not trying to copy anybody; I’m just trying to do my best. I know I have to get better in defence and offence. I’m still a young player and have to learn a lot.

Q: What are some differences you notice between this year and last year for the Oilers?

It’s a little bit different for sure. We’ve got a better defence – Joni Pitkanen and Sheldon Souray are a great help. Denis (Grebeshkov) is still a young player but he’s very good.

It’s smart to build a team around the young players. We’ve got Cogs (Cogliano), Gags (Gagner), Nilsson and Gilbert. It’s really good for the future of our team.

Q: Where do you see your game in five years?

I want to bring a little more offence to my game. My first focus is to be good defensively and not make any mistakes. You’re going to make some mistakes, it comes with your age – I don’t have a lot of experience – but I want to get better on defence really badly. I need to use my stick a little bit more and be a little bit more physical. I’ve had a couple meetings with Mac (head coach Craig MacTavish) so we’re talking about that all the time.

Q: You've certainly brought that physical element a lot this season. Your fight with David Backes of St. Louis even got a mention on Coach's Corner with Don Cherry.

I’m not a big fighter but I’m not afraid to drop the gloves.

It was really nice he mentioned me. I think it was an alright fight with Backes. It’s a part of the game and I think it pumped up the other players. We won the game so that was a really good feeling.

Sometimes fights happen. Some players know when it’s the right time to pump up the other players. I gave him an elbow to his face, then he slashed me back and it happened.

Q: What are your thoughts on the fans of Edmonton and your impression of them at this early point in your career?

It’s not a big secret we’ve got the best fans in the NHL. It’s incredible, sold out every game. Even when we don’t play very well they support us every game. It’s a really great feeling when it’s a full building and they’re cheering for us.

The response for the West Edmonton Mall autograph session was unbelievable. I was there last year too and it was incredible, they’re great.

Chicago Blackhawks' Jason Williams, right, blocks Edmonton Oilers' Ladislav Smid, of the Czech Republic, from the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 9, 2008, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jerry Lai)
Q: What do you normally do on an off-day?

I like to relax, lay on the bed and watch TV, DVDs and stuff like that. It’s really tough physically and mentally to play a full hockey season so you have to relax a lot and save some energy. You have to play almost every second day so it’s better to relax, go to the movies. I like to be at home and hang out with my girlfriend, watch TV.

Q: Who did you follow as a hockey fan growing up in the Czech Republic?

We didn’t follow the NHL a lot because it wasn’t really on TV at that time. I followed top senior league players and attended hockey games in my city and other cities when my father used to play. It was fun; I watched a lot of hockey including our National Team.

I didn’t cheer for any specific team but when I was a little bit older and started to follow the NHL I really liked – and he’s still my favourite player – Nicklas Lidstrom. He’s my favourite player of all time.

Q: Did you feel any pressure to come over to North America?

Atlanta Thrashers right wing Chris Thorburn (27) battles for the puck with Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ladislav Smid (5), from the Czech Republic, during the second period of a hockey game in Atlanta, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Stanley Leary)
When I was drafted, I didn’t want to come over right away because I played in the senior league in my hometown. I think the senior league is better than junior here so that’s why I stayed there. After a year or two I came over. I talked to the GM in Anaheim and a couple scouts. They wanted me to come over to the AHL and it was a different situation. They gave me a lot of chances in the AHL so it was a really good experience for me.

Q: Is your family able to follow you on a regular basis over in Czech?

There’s one channel, the Galaxy Channel. They show hockey games but it’s late night – two or three in the morning. My family watches and a couple of my friends watch the games live at that time.

My parents were here for a couple of games in January – they really liked it here. It’s very different here. My hometown’s top senior team has an arena for 7000 people and here it’s 18,000. The atmosphere here, like I said before, is incredible. My parents were really surprised by the atmosphere here, especially my father. He used to play hockey in the old Czech Republic for the national team. He couldn’t compare what he saw here with the Czech Republic.

Q: Next season the NHL will open the season in Prague, Czech Republic. That should help the game's exposure.

It’s really good for people in Europe. Some people don’t know really anything about the NHL because they’re watching Euoprean hockey. Everybody knows the NHL is the best league in the world. They should put more NHL on TV and this is a part of it. It’s a really good idea to bring the NHL to European people so they can start following NHL hockey.

I would love to play in Prague, actually, but it’s going to be Tampa and the Rangers. New York has a lot of Czech players plus all the Czech fans like Jagr so it’s going to be good.

Smid rarely lets his mind wander in between shifts when he's on the bench during a game. (photo: Andy Devlin)
Q: How do you decide what type of stick to use and what sort of thought process goes behind that decision?

Last year I used Reebok. I kind of like Reebok but they broke easily and I had to change sticks a lot. Before this season I started using Easton Synergy and I like them because they don’t break.

Q: What goes through your mind in between shifts during a game? Do you ever let your mind wander?

I try to be focused on the game. You have to be focused because if you’re not, you’re going to make mistakes. You have to be really foxued on the game and play hard every shift. Soemtimes it happens where your mind wanders and you look up at the jumbotron but not very often. 

Q: Any thoughts on life after hockey?

I’m always focused on hockey and haven’t thought too much about after hockey. But at some point you have to think about it. I would love to be a coach one day, to teach young players how to play hockey and stuff like that. It would be fun.
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