Tragic news hit many teams and players across the National Hockey League when it was revealed that one of the toughest guys to player in the league had passed away on Friday. It has been reported that Greg Smyth passed away - he was only 51 years old.
The former NHL warrior lost his battle to cancer, and though he only played 228 games in the league, he will be remember by many teammates and friends who still to this day keep talking about his strength and courage on the ice.
Smyth was selected in the second round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft out of the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights by the Philadelphia Flyers. The former blue liner played for over 10 NHL seasons with the Flyers, Quebec Nordiques, Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks.
He also spent three seasons with the Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate, St. John's Maple Leafs, where he truly became one of the league's icons. Smyth met his wife in Newfoundland, where he moved and settled after his professional hockey career.
Tributes poured in for Smyth from his former teams and teammates.
"He'd do some lunatic things on the ice and in the penalty box," laughed Brian Rogers, longtime play-by-play announcer for the Maple Leafs when he spoke to CBC.
"But you could see beyond the exterior in the big bad Bird Dog, that there was a guy there with the heart of a lion and like a teddy bear who would do anything for anybody."
"He was a prototypical Flyer, with the physical play, with the stick work, with the dropping the gloves whenever it needed to be done," added Flyer general manager Ron Hextall to CBC. "He was the first guy there when another guy was in trouble, and that kind of embodies a Flyer as well."
"Greg was a tough and physical player who would go to battle for his team," Flyers president Paul Holmgren said in a statement. "If he lost a battle, he'd want to go again, as soon as possible," stated Flyers president Paul Holmgren, who was an assistant coach for the team when Smyth first broke into the NHL. More important, he was a good man. He was a battler off the ice, too. He fought his illness with all he had. He's going to be missed."
Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, a teammate of Smyth's with the Knights in junior also commented on the sad passing of his friend:
Smyth tallied four goals and 16 assists over his NHL career. His unfortunate battle against cancer is the only one he loss in his amazing life and career. He will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends, loved ones and family.