Sunday, March 9, 2014
Jordan Smith Portland Pirates hockey
Jordan Smith's dream of playing in NHL ended the night of Feb. 24, 2006, when he was hit in the left eye by a deflected puck while playing for the Portland Pirates. But he never lost his desire to play hockey.
A little more than a year after he returned to the ice to play for Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Smith has become one of Canada's top college hockey players.
After his first full season with the Thunderwolves, Smith recently was named to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport's first team. He's now an All-Canadian hockey player.
Smith, selected in the second round of the 2004 amateur draft by the Anaheim Ducks, seemed to be off to a promising start in his first professional season two years ago.
It all ended when he was hit by a puck during the first period of a game against the Manchester Monarchs at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Smith's left eye was lacerated and he suffered multiple fractures in the orbital bone surrounding it. After two operations it was determined the sight in that eye was gone for good, and he was forced to retire from pro hockey.
Last January, Smith returned to the ice to play for the Thunderwolves. This season, he emerged as one of the top defensemen in the Ontario University Association.
''His determination and the passion he has for the game, I'm sure, is something he's had all his life,'' Lakehead Coach Don McKee said. ''The way he's continued to demonstrate it in overcoming his sight problem has made him a role model as a hockey player.''
Still, Smith has had to make some adjustments to play hockey with his disability.
''I had to learn to play the game a new kind of way,'' he said. ''I have to know where people are on the ice.
''Basically, I'm learning how to play to my strengths rather than have the disability become a factor.''
To aid Smith, McKee played him as part of a five-man unit.
''We played him with the same guys all the time,'' McKee said. ''They were really working on communication as a key to help him.''
Smith said his toughest adjustment came off the ice.
''I think going to school was a bigger adjustment for me than playing hockey,'' he said. ''When I was playing professional hockey, I got up at 8:30 in the morning and went to the ice arena for two or three hours. Now I have to go to class all day and do homework as well as play hockey.''
McKee said Smith is making a successful transformation from pro athlete to student athlete.
''I don't think you become a number two draft pick with Anaheim, I don't think you become as good of a hockey player as he is without excellent work habits,'' McKee said. I think transferring the same work habits to the classroom was a challenge for him, but he knows if he supplies the same work habits, he'll have the same success.''
Smith, 22, has three more seasons of college eligibility, but he hasn't ruled out returning to professional hockey after his schooling is completed.
''My number one goal hasn't changed. That's to get my teaching degree,'' said Smith, who is majoring in geography and physical education. ''After that, I'm going to weigh my options.''
The NHL is no longer a possibility for Smith. Players in hockey's top professional league are required to have sight in both eyes. However, other professional leagues remain open to him.
''I definitely haven't ruled out playing in the AHL in the future or in Europe,'' he said.
McKee also believes Smith has a future in hockey.
''I think Jordan Smith will wind up coaching hockey some day,'' McKee said. ''He's a student of the game and I think he'll make a good coach.''
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 386-0346 or at: