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Ryan Smyth: An Alberta Great

Cam Tait writes about Ryan Smyth's induction into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame

by Cam Tait / EdmontonOilers.com

If you've ever had the pleasure of personally meeting Ryan Smyth, you know how he approaches you when he stops to say hello.

First off, it's that big wide smile he flashes at you. Then, it's those eyes - which have seen so much in the game of hockey on several levels - that light up the room like the goal light flashing when the puck hits the back of the net in overtime..

Next, Ryan takes a step towards you. His right arm curves, just a little. Then, his right hand opens and clenches yours, not too tight - but friendly, warm and with conviction

Ryan always looks you straight in the eye.

"Great to see you," he says with enthusiasm.

"Everything OK?

"How's the family?"

Those were some of the memories my mind's eye flashed back to Monday when news broke that Ryan was going to be inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.

I've known Ryan for two decades and his hockey prowess is very well known and respected with a plethora of hockey minds within our great game.

His moves are legendary: dancing or bullying his way to position himself in that perfect spot in front of the net, executing the perfect tip-in from a blistering slap-shot from one-time teammate Chris Pronger. This staple of his game even took out a few of his teeth in Game 3 of the second round of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. But that still didn't stop him from getting the assist for Shawn Horcoff's triple overtime winner - a testament to his deep love for the game, which propelled him to be the consummate competitor.

Ryan always has others on his mind.

You may remember seeing Ryan on the ice just as the pre-game warmup was ending. He always went over to a corner and gathered a few pucks to throw over to kids in the crowd.

It was a gesture he saw in the NHL when he was a kid and always strived to do the same.

Together with his wife Stacey, the couple have always been strong supporters of the Stollery Children's Hospital.

When Ryan returned for his final years with the Edmonton Oilers, he resumed surprise visits to the Stollery Children's Hospital. The family still frequents the children's hospital and are big supporters of the annual Snowflake Gala, with proceeds directly benefiting the Stollery.

Family has always been extremely important for the Smyths and Stacey and his four kids always stood just outside the Oilers dressing room door to fist pump their dad.

Talk about pre-game motivation.

Ryan's induction into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame is certainly deserving.

And, it's rather fitting that the induction ceremony is taking place in Red Deer. Ryan grew up in Banff and played hockey in Edmonton.

Red Deer is the perfect meet-in-the-middle location to celebrate the two cities he loves.

I haven't seen Ryan since Monday's announcement, but when I do I'll give him my undivided attention and shake his hand firmly.

I'll congratulate him and thank him for being a role model for us all both on and off the ice.

(For comments, suggestions or just to say hi, email ctait@edmontonoilers.com)

Ryan's hockey career has been well documented, including a recent In Depth piece on the Oilers website by Head Writer Chris Wescott. Check it out here: Always Hockey: Ryan Smyth's Retirement

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