Deciding to attend Colorado College shaped Greg Smith’s life well beyond hockey.
But it was attending CC (1973-76) on a hockey scholarship that guided him toward a 13-year NHL career.
“Growing up a small town in Alberta (Ponoka, pop. 7,229), college wasn’t really talked about,” Smith, 61, said about choosing between CC and then-national power Michigan Tech. “I didn’t know what to expect. (CC) helped me grow physically and develop as a player and as a person and created lifelong friendships with my teammates.”
The Montana-based medical implants salesman, who retired from the NHL in 1988 after 892 career games (299 points, 239 assists), was selected by the veterans committee for the 2017 induction class of the CC Athletics Hall of Fame this Saturday at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort.
“The 2017 Hall of Fame induction class will be remembered as one of the strongest in the college’s history,” athletic director Ken Ralph said. “We are celebrating not only students who had great achievements while at Colorado College, but also alumni who had remarkable careers after leaving campus.”
Smith recorded 91 points in 101 games over three seasons as a Tiger and spent only 10 games in the minors (Central Hockey League’s Salt Lake Golden Eagles) immediately after his junior season ended.
The 1975 California Golden Seals draft pick (94th overall) remained with the troubled franchise until the 1978 merger between the then-Cleveland Barons and Minnesota North Stars.
He played on the 1980-81 North Stars who lost to the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Finals. He spent the next 4 1/2 seasons with Detroit before wrapping things up with 2 1/2 seasons with the Washington Capitals.
It was then that Smith, then 33, decided to retire, knowing he could sign with another franchise for a couple more years while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the minors.
“I wanted it to be a decision made by me, not others,” Smith said. “My oldest daughter was in grade school and moving somewhere for just a year wasn’t the right thing to do. My body was starting to tell me it was time, too.”
Injuries incurred over a lengthy NHL career sparked Smith’s interest in medicine. Former CC teammates Mike and Tim Egan connected him with Medtronics, where he now sells spinal implants. He lives in Billings where he coached youth hockey while his son played.
It was Tim Egan, now based in Germany, who notified the CC search committee about Smith. Smith said he will be forever thankful for Egan’s efforts and the honor.