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April, 2013, Page 108
Photo by Madison Kirkman
Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes goalie
Phoenix Coyotes Puck-Stopper
Once upon a time, Coyotes goalie Mike Smith was a Walmart-priced replacement for departed free agent Ilya Bryzgalov. The highlights of his five-year career were getting traded by Dallas, getting injured often and getting waived by Tampa Bay.
That was before Smith back-stopped Phoenix to the franchise’s best season in 2011-12, entering the discussion for the Vezina Trophy for the league’s best goalie and NHL MVP as the Coyotes advanced all the way to the Western Conference final.
That playoff run and a series of unique hairdos – one of which earned him the nickname Cousin It – have Smith approaching Valley icon status. But as he enters the final year of his contract, Smith insists nothing has changed. He still has much to prove, he still takes the same, low-key approach to hockey and life, and he remains immune to the barbs from his teammates over his ever-changing do.
What did you do during the 113-day NHL lockout?
I went elk hunting with my dad (Ron) and brother (Brad) near Leadore, Idaho. All three of us harvested a bull elk. My dad’s been wanting to go elk hunting since he was a young boy. It was something I’d never been able to do with him before because of my hockey career, so it was great to finally check that off the list. I shot three animals this lockout – two deer and an elk. So I guess I’m not going to be a PETA spokesperson any time soon.
How have you approached this season, knowing you are playing for a contract?
My mindset is the same as it was last year. The only difference is I’ve gained a lot of confidence. Last year, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I always believed I could do it, but to actually have done something – to play well and have a good season and not have too many letdowns – really made me grow as a player. I kind of hushed the critics. In the past, I’ve heard people say, “He can’t do it over a long period of time; he can’t do it consistently.” To get as far as we did was a big confidence builder for me.
The club’s continued ownership limbo has kept your contract negotiations on hold. Does that bother you?
Obviously, it would have been nice to get something done before the season started and not have to worry about it, but the situation hasn’t really set itself up for a realistic time frame to get it done. I’m not really worried about it... I’m going to enjoy the season, and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.
You like to play the puck as much as any goalie in the league. Why?
You can really help out your defense when you can make passes or plays. The D can’t see the forwards coming behind them. I can, so I can read plays and hopefully make good decisions that take some of the pressure off them. Sometimes I get a little crazy back there, but goalies have a rep for being crazy anyway, so I’m just trying to hold up my end.
Why did you change your hairdo from the long locks to a Mohawk-mullet combo?
A lot of reasons. I thought I needed a change in mentality. I didn’t get off to a good start this season so I needed to change my luck a bit. Plus, I needed to look a little more professional and it was getting pretty hot out there.
Does it require extra care?
Well, I don’t have a specific shampoo or conditioner, so if anyone out there – Pantene Pro-V or anyone – needs a spokesperson, I have the hair for it.
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