Following his introduction as the 14th head coach in franchise history yesterday, we chatted with D.J. Smith to find out a little bit more about Ottawa's new bench boss.
On his hometown in Southwestern Ontario:
I was born in Windsor, ON and now I live in Tecumseh which is just outside the city. The entire area has grown quite a bit in the past 10 years and it's a really great community to be a part of. It's nicer than people might think and a lot of hockey players go back and live there during the offseason. It's a small but a tight-knit community where everyone helps take care of each other.
I have a son that's turning 3 in June and a 15-year-old son that plays AAA hockey back home who's up for the OHL Draft next year. I was still playing when he was born so he's kind of grown up with all this and been around a lot of the players that I've coached.
How he spends his downtime away from the rink:
My wife got me into crossfit a couple of years ago so that's something we like doing together. I really love to golf too so I try to get in 4-5 rounds a week during the summer if I can. It's a little tougher with a 3-year-old but that's my getaway in the summer and I try to play as much as possible.
His earliest memories of hockey:
I was just so competitive from an early age and hockey was the first thing that I did where they kept score so I just wanted to win all the time. I've met so many good people because of hockey and most of my friends now have something to do with the sport. It's just a passion for me and I can wake up and talk about hockey 365 days a year. Growing up I always wanted to play in the NHL so when that was cut short, the next best thing was to get into coaching right away. As a player, I always knew I'd get into coaching someday. I knew how I like to be treated and what I responded to so I felt like I might be able to get a little more out of players because of that.
How he got into coaching:
I unfortunately had to retire from hockey a little bit early from concussions so I was done playing at 26. I've been coaching for the past 16 years and I've put a lot of time into it. I wasn't really sure when my NHL opportunity would come but I think you have to see it in your future and I did. I knew that at some point I'd have the chance to be a head coach in the NHL and I'm thrilled to have it happen in Ottawa.
Video: Welcome Head Coach D.J. Smith
On a coach who had a big effect on him:
I had a coach in Junior named Paul Gillis who played for the Quebec Nordiques for a long time and he only coached me for a short time but I took so many things from him like the way he communicated with me and the other players. He was able to take a lot of the stress away which allowed me to focus on just playing hockey. I didn't have a lot of that in my career, I had a lot of other really good coaches but he was able to make me feel like I was 8-years-old again. He made the game fun and I probably had my best season in my career under him because of that.
On his connections to the current Sens roster:
Nothing that direct. I've coached against a few of these guys in Junior, Cody Ceci probably the most during my time in Oshawa, but I've certainly been on the other bench against many of these guys in the NHL. That's one of the things I'm most excited for actually, I mostly know them as players but now I'm really looking forward to get to know them as people.
On finding a place to live in Ottawa:
We have to start looking around the city. I'd like to be as close to the arena as possible but my wife would probably prefer some of the trendier areas of town. I'm sure we'll find a spot that works for both of us.