It is rare for a player to have as much of an impact on a team, its fans, and the city as this one player had on the Edmonton Oilers. And because of that, I am constantly asking myself when we will finally get to see a Ryan Smyth jersey retirement ceremony.
As an Oilers fan born in the 90s, I grew up idolizing Smyth and everything about him and the way he played hockey, as I’m sure many of you readers can relate to. His gritty, hard-nosed style of play endeared himself to fans. Something about his presence on the ice just drew people on board his fan club.
He was a player who symbolized what it means to be an Oiler, a trait that is still to this day a metric on which Oilers players are graded. After growing up watching Smyth, I now use him as a comparison when trying to gauge the work ethic of other players. It’s rare that someone lives up to that standard, and I’ve only really seen it in a few others, one being Andrew Cogliano. And another that I’m starting to see positive signs from is Ryan McLeod, a player the Oilers should really be making sure they retain.
Smyth gave it his all every shift. He always fought, battled, and ground his way through the game. He was always in the greasy, hard-to-play areas looking for rebounds, deflections, and distractions in front of the net. His gritty approach to the game is epitomized in this game during the 2006 playoffs where he took a clearing attempt off the mouth and lost three teeth.
Smyth then returned to the game to set up the game-winning goal off of a wrap-around pass to Shawn Horcoff in triple overtime.
His iconic slap shot from the point on the rush. His being one of the last players to use a wooden stick, sticking with one right up to his retirement in 2015. His elite hockey hair. Smyth is an Oiler and hockey stereotype through and through.
Smyth was with the Oilers through some extremely tough years and his effort level was sometimes the only reason to tune into a game. He was an incredibly reliable player, given his playstyle, regularly playing over 70 games per season. And was no slouch on the ice either, as he was a highly talented player, shown by being drafted sixth overall back in 1994. His 396 career goals and 842 points show his longevity and talent.
Amongst Oilers players, Smyth is fifth in career goals with 296, tied for ninth in assists with 335, and his 631 points in seventh in team history. He still sits tied for the franchise lead in powerplay goals (126) with Glenn Anderson.
Smyth has himself cemented in the legacy books of the team, his name amongst the legends of hockey that have played for the Oilers, both statistically and culturally.
But here we are, eight years after his retirement and we are yet to see or hear much of anything about a Ryan Smyth jersey retirement. At this point I highly doubt any player would wear his iconic number 94 anyways, knowing how much he meant to this franchise, but sometimes the official honour is deserved. This is one of those occasions.
Why might the team have not yet held a jersey retirement for Smyth? Historically, the Oilers have a rule. They only retire the number of players who have made the Hockey Hall of Fame. This is fair as it gives specific criteria or level of greatness a player must achieve before receiving this honour from the team. Al Hamilton is the exception, but everyone else is a Hall of Famer. The most recent is Kevin Lowe, whose number was quickly raised after making the Hall of Fame a couple of years ago.
But in certain cases, exceptions or compromises should be made. This is one of them. Although I would accept an official recognition, like a ring of honour for players who won’t make the Hall of Fame but still deserve the jersey retirement, I think for Smyth, his number 94 needs to go straight to the rafters.
Do you agree that the Oilers need to retire Smyth’s number as soon as possible? Let us know in the comments down below!
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