Des Smith

Des Smith was a big and well-travelled defenseman in the 1930s and 1940s.

The Ottawa born and raised hockey star played with the Montreal Maroons, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Black Hawks and Boston Bruins between 1938 and 1942, totalling 195 games played. But all of that happened only after he played a couple of seasons in Great Britain, first with the Wembley Lions and then the Wembley Monarchs.

Nowadays playing in Europe, even for North American players, prior to coming to the NHL is not unheard of. But back in the 1930s this was hardly the conventional way of making the big leagues. The Wembley teams were made up of all Canadian players. As such they were a power house. In fact they even played exhibition games against Canadian teams.

How Smith was recruited I do not know, but it was a good fit. He was considered to be the best defenseman in his two seasons in the BNL.

After his vagabond career in the NHL ended in 1942, Smith turned to coaching army teams in Ottawa and Montreal during World War II. After World War II Smith returned to the ice, but as an AHL referee for several seasons. By 1962 he became an announcer and public relations director at Carleton Raceway in Ottawa. He worked there until his death in 1981.

Des' sons Brian and Gary both would play in the National Hockey League.


Derek 8:42 AM  

Des was not the greatest defenseman, but by playing big minutes with the Bruins during this era and helping them with the Stanley Cup in 1941 he was a pretty darn good defenseman.
Des Smith played all his early hockey in his native Ottawa, playing three years for the Ottawa Montagnards. In the 1939-40 playoffs he suffered a concussion and pulled tendons and despite available stats showing he played in all 6 games he may have only appeared in one or two. The stats from this era that are available at HHOF, and other respected stat databases generally do not recognize when a player was out with injury. If a player's name was on the roster they may or may not have actually played if injuries prevented him from playing.
Smith was never a prolific scorer but he was a good scrappy solid defenseman at the blue-line. He was considered the weakest defenseman of the quartet of Clapper, Crawford, and Hollet but he and Clapper would be effective as a tandem because “Clapper is the best in the league.”

Derek 8:43 AM  

Ottawa Citizen
“One of the most likeable youngsters in hockey (even when he was banging one of your favorite players up into the rafters) goes in the Air Force in the person of Des Smith. Despatches report that he is to take a pilot’s observation course and move on to R.C.A.F. duty. Schmidt, Dumart, Bauer, Roy Conacher, now Smith, form the greatest contribution any one NHL club has made to the armed forces.
“Des Smith was a tall gangling youngster when he came into the NHL via Maroons. He had learned his extra curricular hockey in England, where the body-checking was practically taboo, before the war, and at body-checking young Smith wasn’t very proficient, in those days, though extremely willing. Pleasant and amiable off the ice, he was a fighter in action, hurled himself into all opponents. One night, in checking a more rugged foe, he knocked himself out with a body-check.”
“But Des improved steadily, had become a fine hockey player, reminiscent of Lionel Hitchman in his body-checking style, and was an important defensive unit for Bruins when that club won the Stanley Cup two years ago. There isn’t much left of the Bruins today, and probably there will be a good deal less before autumn rolls around.”

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