In 606 NHL games, Jerred Smithson was best known for his faceoff and penalty killing prowess.
He brings those tangibles and much more to the B.C. Hockey League’s Vernon Vipers as a part-time assistant coach.
The 38-year-old has been officially hired after helping the team late last season and working the current training camp.
“As far as I know, it’s kind of an assistant coach but I think it’ll be more of a practice-type guy,” said Smithson, who played for five NHL teams before retiring last year after one season in Denmark.
”I’ll go out there and work with the forwards or the centreman and just kind of give my input, if they ever need any, or if I need to step up and say something, from what I see. Just be involved a little bit more than I was in the playoffs last year and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I can see a little bit with the d-men but I’m not a d-man. I can see little things in the forwards that can probably make their life a little bit easier out there and I’m happy to be able to pass on that info.”
Smithson was born and raised in Vernon. He spent five seasons with the Western League Calgary Hitmen before signing a pro contract in the American League. He played most of his NHL career with the Nashville Predators.
“I’ve been very fortunate to play for some awesome coaches and some, I feel, not so awesome, but you learn from each of them and I’ll take the positives and the negatives from each of them and relay that message to the kids.”
The towering, down-to-earth father of two has long been a student of hockey.
“It’s (coaching) always interested me. I love the game. Even when I’m not playing, I’m watching what guys are doing out there and different tendencies. So it was pretty easy to step in and do this. Whether I do it full-time for the rest of my life, I’m not sure. Right now, it’s a good fit. I feel comfortable here. I’ve skated with these guys every year since I turned pro at 20 so in a way, I kind of owe them too. I’m glad to be in the mix.”
Smithson met with Viper head coach/director of player personnel Mark Ferner and team owner Duncan Wray a few months ago about a coaching position. He joins a staff which also includes assistants Kevin Kraus and Kevin Pedersen.
“For me, the more the better, just for the fact that you don’t know where you’re gonna get your next good idea from,” said Ferner. “We don’t want him or any of the coaches to just sit there and agree. You want to have those dicussions and challenge each other, and with Jerred coming on board, that’s what’s gonna happen. He’s a great guy. Our job is to try and and get these kids better and with our staff right now, we can do that.
“Jerred has a ton of experience. He came out and helped last year. Our centremen were struggling and he worked with them. He was a great help and they liked him.”
Smithson made his bench debut Wednesday night, coaching alongside Kraus with Team White, 5-3 losers to Team Blue, coached by Pedersen and returning forwards Brett Stapley and Jimmy Lambert.
Ferner watched from the press box and released 21 players following the scrimmage, including goalies Zack Willms and James Brendeland. The Snakes now have 36 players in camp. Newly acquired F Finn Evans of Toronto arrives Saturday.
Dean Whitcomb, Nick Cherkowski, Josh Prokop, Matthias Urbanski and Conor Marritt registered snipes for Team Blue, who got stellar netminding from Vernon product Connor Webb. KT Walters, Reese Tambellini and Quinton Ong, on a powerplay wrister from the right point, replied for Team White. who trailed 3-1 and 4-2 by period scores.
Prokop, Marritt, Alex Swetlikoff and d-man Michael Young turned in stellar showings. Young is a 19-year-old from Boston who rang up 30 points in 31 high school games with Rivers School in Weston, Mass. last year. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound crushing hitter has a scholarship with the University of Connecticut (UConn Huskies).
The Vipers entertain the Salmon Arm Silverbacks tonight at 7:00 with the teams playing Saturday night at the Shaw Centre. Vernon entertains the Prince George Spruce Kings Thursday night.
Former Viper Sahir Gill, who helped Vernon win the 2009 Royal Bank Cup, and Carter Rowney of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins were in the Snakes den Wednesday morning, getting ready for a skate. Rowney just bought a summer place in Vernon. Gill, a Penguins’ prospect, is staying with former Oiler prospect Cole Sanford. Both Gill and Rowney work out with local trainer Rhonda Catt.