Ryan Smyth said he expects to have up to 60 family members and friends in attendance tonight for his 1,000th NHL game. “It’s very special,” Smyth said this morning. “My wife did a lot of surprises for me. She told me that family was coming, but she didn’t mention anything about friends and stuff, so it’s an honor to share this moment with them.”
Coincidentally enough, Smyth’s first game was played in Los Angeles, at the Forum, when he and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Kings 4-3 on Jan. 22, 1995. That was the second game of the lockout-shortened season. Smyth’s goalie that day was current Kings goalie coach Bill Ranford, and his road roommate that year was Scott Thornton, who went on to play for the Kings.
One of the surprises Smyth discovered this week, as first noted in Jim Matheson’s Edmonton Journal story yesterday, was the arrival of former Oilers equipment managers/trainers Kenny Loew, Barrie Stafford and Lyle Lulchisky, who came to Los Angeles and presented Smyth with a framed copy of the score sheet from his first NHL game.
“It’s pretty neat,” Smyth said. “When you think back, as a player you just want to play that first NHL game, let alone 1,000. Obviously every kid dreams of winning the Stanley Cup. You want to win that, for sure, but for me it was just playing the first game.”
The nice thing, for Smyth, is that this doesn’t simply feel like a lifetime-achievement award. At age 34, he’s still a big contributor to the Kings, with eight points in 12 games this season as a key cog on what has been the Kings’ most productive line this season, with Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams.
“I feel healthy this year, and that’s the main part,” Smyth said. “You come into the year and you feel healthy and you feel good, and you want to contribute as best you can for the team. The team is playing good hockey, and if we can maintain it, we’ve got a good opportunity and that’s what you want.”