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Making an Impression

Wednesday, 06.9.2004 / 11:00 PM CT / News
Dallas Stars
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Making an Impression

June 10, 2004

Sitting in his hometown of Verona, Ontario, Mike Smith ponders what it would be like to play for the Dallas Stars next season. It's a dream every hockey player desires from the first time they step on the ice at the age of two, to become an NHL player. This dream is in Smith's grasp and he doesn't want to let it go. Combining his ability as a goaltender and his development over the past two seasons, he believes he can make a difference on an NHL team.

"I have to work hard this summer and try and get that job for myself," said Smith. "I will do everything I can to do that.

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"I feel like I bring similar things to the team as Marty Turco does. Puck handling and communication on the ice are two things we both like to do. I see that as a positive because when Marty doesn't play, the team doesn't have to change their style if I'm in net."

Smith actually was called up to the Stars last season on January 7th to backup Stars netminder Marty Turco. It was the first time in his career that he would don an NHL sweater during a regular season game. The 6-3, 189-pound goalie stayed with the team from January 7th to January 27th. Twenty days he will never forget.

"Getting called up for my first time was unbelievable. When I first heard about it from our Utah coach Don Hay, I was in total shock," said Smith. "I had been to training camp and in exhibition games before, but it wasn't the same as getting called up in the regular season by the big club."

Smith did not appear in a contest, but quickly learned that playing on the NHL level is quite different than playing on the American Hockey League (AHL) level. Like a VCR fast-forwarding through a movie at a rapid pace, the Dallas Stars skaters zipped around the 22 year-old goaltender at the Frisco Dr Pepper StarCenter.

"I still remember my first practice when I got called up in January," said Smith. "I got absolutely lit up.

"We had a shootout at the end of practice and I think I stopped one puck. The one shot I did stop I believe came from Aaron Downey."

However, instead of getting frustrated with the situation, Smith chose to look at things from a different angle. He quickly realized that being with the Stars was not just about his play on the ice, but also his image off of it. Learning valuable lessons from certain players on what it was like to be in the NHL, he matured from a 22-year old kid to a 22-year old National Hockey League player. Like a sponge soaking up water, Smith absorbed everything going on around him. Every day he cherished and every minute he learned something new.

"Turco was one guy who really helped me last season," said Smith. "He's a great role model and an outstanding leader for the young goalies who are coming up.

"Not just on the ice, but off the ice as well Marty is a class act. I saw when I got to Dallas how much harder I had to work by watching Marty and Ron Tugnutt."

Having played the last two seasons with the Utah Grizzlies of the AHL, people have noticed a big improvement in his development not only as a goaltender, but as a person as well. In 2002-03, Smith was 5-5-0 with a 3.23 goals-against-average. Last season, he had an 8-11-0 record with the Grizzlies, but saw his goals-against-average improve to 2.83. With two years of professional experience under his belt, he is becoming the goaltender the Stars believed he would be when they selected him during the fifth round (161st overall) of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. There are some in the organization that would say he has been one of the top three athletes at training camp over the past two seasons. Not only that, it is practically impossible to find anyone in the Stars organization that says anything negative about him at all.

Glenn James
"Mike is a very likeable guy who has been positive from day one," Assistant General Manager Les Jackson said. "When he turned professional we sent him to the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), which was a great experience for him. He had a good season and really developed his game.

"Last year, he came into Utah and continued with his growth. It was a situation that was trying at times for him, but he still made some good strides in his overall game."

Heading into the 2004-05 season, the Stars have three very capable back-ups to Marty Turco. Jason Bacashihua, Dan Ellis and Smith all have an equal chance at winning a spot on the Dallas Stars 23-man roster. It quite possibly could come down to how each of them plays at training camp.

"Right now the job for the backup goalie is open to three guys," Jackson said. "We will give it to whoever we see as the best player and Mike is definitely in that group."

Smith has faith that he will bring everything he has in the tank and prove to the coaching staff that he belongs with the Stars. When he speaks about making the club, you can hear the confidence ringing in his voice and how he is ready for the challenge lying ahead.

"I look forward to the challenge and this opportunity," said Smith. "You couldn't have two better guys to push you in Bacashihua and Ellis.

"I just have to come into camp and prove that I'm the best one. That's what my goal is for the summer, to come into camp as the best goalie."

Only time will tell which one these three young men will start the season with Dallas. Chances are we won't know until the last day of training camp. It should be fun to watch.




1 y - ANA 79 50 22 7 232 217 107
2 x - NSH 78 47 22 9 224 193 103
3 STL 76 46 23 7 229 190 99
4 CHI 76 46 24 6 217 176 98
5 MIN 76 44 25 7 219 186 95
6 VAN 77 45 27 5 224 208 95
7 CGY 77 42 28 7 229 204 91
8 WPG 77 39 26 12 217 204 90
9 LAK 76 37 25 14 201 192 88
10 SJS 77 38 30 9 217 216 85
11 DAL 77 37 30 10 239 248 84
12 COL 77 35 30 12 207 218 82
13 EDM 77 23 41 13 186 260 59
14 ARI 77 23 46 8 161 256 54


J. Benn 77 28 46 -6 74
T. Seguin 67 35 35 -4 70
J. Spezza 77 17 42 -3 59
J. Klingberg 60 11 27 3 38
C. Eakin 73 17 19 -5 36
T. Daley 63 16 20 -10 36
A. Goligoski 77 4 31 -2 35
A. Hemsky 71 11 21 -5 32
S. Horcoff 73 11 17 7 28
V. Fiddler 75 12 15 -5 27
K. Lehtonen 34 16 10 .906 2.88
J. Enroth 1 5 0 .877 3.16
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