Right wing Givani Smith was drafted by the Red Wings in the second round, 46th overall, in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-foot-2, 209-pound Toronto native is one of four Red Wings prospects writing for our Taking Flight blog series, which chronicles the players' ups and downs as they work their way to becoming Red Wings. Smith currently plays for Detroit's AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. Here is his second entry of 'Powering Forward.'
Powering Forward - Entry 2
by Givani Smith
First of all, I want to wish everybody a belated Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Christmas at the Smith house, it's a pretty exciting time of the year, being a family of Jamaican descent and having lots of Jamaican cousins and Jamaican community and family members, we treat Christmas with a little house party, it's kind of been tradition for my mom to throw a party, a Christmas dinner, where everyone comes over to celebrate. It's just nice getting to speak with all my cousins and my aunties and uncles, it's good to catch up with everyone again.
My family is a really big Christianity family and Christmas is the same for us. It's just the preparation around it, the food, the music that we listen to, the way we speak and communicate, it's a little different because we talk in Patois. It's the language we use in Jamaica, it's just broken English. The food that's there, you guys might not be familiar with it. One of my favorite Jamaican dishes is oxtail and brown rice, that's one of my favorite meals that I always like to have. We get meals like that and then there's often plantain and obviously there's lots of jerk chicken which is pretty famous and actually from Jamaica. Happy about that. There's a whole bunch of meals there, food that my mom and my aunts prepare for all of us. It was just nice to go back home to my family, my culture a little bit, get a break from hockey. That's where I came from, how I grew up.
This Christmas I was able to spend time with my older brother Gemel, who was put on waivers by Dallas, claimed by Boston and now plays for Providence. He was able to make it home and hanging out with him doesn't happen much during the holiday season, it was one of the only times where we were both together again. It was really nice for my whole family.
We're four years apart, so he always got to go through things before me, but I always got to see him go through things that I would eventually also go through. Our whole family became serious about hockey when Gemel got drafted into the OHL, we didn't even know he got drafted. We were all like, what is the OHL? I didn't know a thing about that. Because we were just playing hockey. We were playing hockey because we loved it. We've always thought about going to the NHL, but we had no idea how you got to the NHL.
So, he kind of went through the whole OHL draft thing, he was a late pick in the OHL draft and then fortunately enough, he ended up making the team his first year and then they end up winning, went to the Memorial Cup and won the OHL. I remember just going to the games all the time, up to Owen Sound and just seeing the whole atmosphere thinking, 'Wow, this is way better than where I'm playing now in AAA Hockey, it's more exciting.' Everyone's so happy to be at the games, there's so many fans, just seeing my brother go through that, it kind of made me be like, 'Oh, wow, I want to be just like you, Gemel, I want to be playing in this league, too.'
Then the NHL draft happened and that just kind of opened up all of our eyes, like oh, wow, this is unbelievable. I've always magnified my brother, wanted to be like him but at the same time, I was playing high level hockey at AAA. I wanted to be just like him, but I wanted to be better than him, I wanted to surpass him. I would always tell him that I'm going to play in the NHL before you play in the NHL. He always laughed at me. He's my older brother so he'd say, 'Yeah, I think you could.' But he was just being nice to me. Gave me that almost false hope but he knew the situation that he was in and that I would have to go through everything, the OHL draft, the combine, the NHL draft, training camp, he's been through all that. He just wanted me to keep playing hockey and go through it and as I went through it, I started noticing all the stuff you have to do to get to the next level.
We try to help each other out. At the same time, you want to be the best brother. You want to have that advantage thing, like I beat Gemel today in the game or I stole the puck off Gemel. You always want to have bragging rights, I guess. I have two more brothers and we all play hockey, we always talk about hockey. Just that camaraderie around the house, we're always playing games. I guess it all kind of started when we played mini sticks together, my brothers and my cousins, we would always be so competitive and always want to win. Even if you're on the same team, you want to beat each other every single time.
The Christmas break was really good, but now it's time to play hockey.
In my last entry, I talked about how defense is something I'm really trying to work on and be in the right place and things will come offensively. Lucky for me, it has. I have been contributing on the scoresheet now. I've just been noticing my overall play; my professional game has kind of changed and I'm really happy about that. I was really working on it, just becoming a pro every day, every night, doing little things like just coming to the rink with a good attitude and coming early and things like that. I've finally found my way in who I am as a professional hockey player and I'm proud of myself for that.
Sometimes you have to figure things out on your own. You could be told to do all these things and the coach is always saying what to say, what to do but at the end of the day, if you don't want to do it, if you're not going to do it with your heart in it, you're not going to learn that way. The Red Wings have given me time, they're not nagging me or pushing me, or on the phone or in my ear all the time. They gave me some leeway to figure things out on my own and I appreciate that.
It's been a learning experience. I knew coming here wasn't going to be all highs, highs, highs; it's a learning experience because you're on your own for the first time and being away from home and all my friends, working this job, I never viewed hockey as a job. Hockey was a sport I loved to play, a gift that I got to be able to play this sport at a high level. So, I never really took it as a job, but I had to start really thinking about things.
You have to realize that this is a career. It's something that I want to do, and I want to be really great at, I want to be the best. It's the little things like just taking care of myself. You kind of see it with the older guys on the team, watching their habits and how they operate with their family and their kids. You kind of get to take after them like Matt Ford, I'm trying to see him as an example, take after him, what he does, his preparation times at the rink and away from the rink. It's like learning without being told what to do.
I'm looking forward to taking over during the second half of this season. I've had my first 25 games, the coach said it, 'You're not looked upon as a rookie now, it's time to start doing big things for the club and start producing,' which I feel comfortable and confident in doing. I'm looking forward to getting more opportunity and putting myself out there and having the real Givani Smith come to play. Time for real life.
In 24 games this season with the Griffins, Smith has one goal, two assists, is minus-3 and has been assessed 27 penalty minutes.