Summerside’s Smitty: 81-year-old goalie on P.E.I. still has the moves 

By admin Dec11,2023

Summerside’s Gerard Smith has made his mark on the P.E.I. sporting world over the decades as a player and coach in hockey and baseball, with an extensive list of accomplishments that includes his 2018 induction into the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame. 

At 81, Smitty is still going strong, playing net twice a week in a “somewhat competitive” noon-hour hockey league at Credit Union Place. 

“He’s telling us young fellows that age is just a number,” said teammate Mike Cameron.  

“His compete level is unbelievable. We don’t keep score on the board, but we certainly keep score in our heads, and we’re a pretty competitive bunch. 

A lot of times we will chirp the other team and say, “That’s too bad you can’t score on an 81-year-old​​​.”​​— Mike Cameron

“A lot of times we will chirp the other team and say, ‘That’s too bad you can’t score on an 81-year-old.'”

Cameron said he’s looking forward to seeing Smitty play for years to come. 

Players ranging in age from 30something to 81 gather on the ice after the Thursday game at Credit Union Place. Smitty is at front on the far right, in the red jersey. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

“That certainly gives a guy motivation, you know? My career in noon-hour hockey could last another 15 years if I’m going to match up to Smitty,” Cameron said.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how long it goes. I mean, he’s 81. Will he hit the 90 mark? We’re waiting to see.”

‘Lots of shots’

Rick Morrison has been playing in the league with Smitty for eight years. 

“The level that he competes at is much like a teenager. He’s up, he’s down, he’s making the saves — and there’s nothing he hates worse than being scored on,” he said.

Morrison said it can be tough to find goalies who want to play in the senior leagues. 

“There’s not much defence, so chances are you’re going to get lots of shots, and some goalies don’t appreciate the amount of shots they get,” he said. 

A man wearing a white helmet and blue hockey jersey stands near the players' bench
Rick Morrison has been playing in the noon-hour league with Smitty for eight years. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Morrison said Smitty puts his decades of experience to good use between the pipes. 

“He cheats a little bit … He’ll give you a lot of room on the glove-hand side because he was also an amazing catcher when it came to baseball,” he said. 

“The easiest thing for him to do is probably catch the puck. And he just snags it, and takes it away from you.”

A hockey goalie with leather pads and gloves and no helmet.
Smitty didn’t learn to skate until he was 16, but quickly made a name for himself on teams including the St. Dunstan’s varsity squad, Sandy’s Royals and the Islanders. (Submitted by PEI Sports Hall of Fame)

Morrison said all the players respect Smitty’s contributions over the years. 

“His hands are all over sports in Summerside, and for that matter P.E.I.,” he said.

“He was a phenomenal ball player, phenomenal hockey player. But he gave back to the sports and he coached at every level, from minor hockey to junior hockey.  And he just loves the kids, and he loves people playing the sports.”

‘Good camaraderie with the guys’

As for Smitty himself, he is modest about his accomplishments. 

“I’m still pretty competitive, but there are times you have to realize who you’re playing with. There’s some good hockey players out there, and they don’t deliberately make a mistake,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, when I make one, the puck’s behind me.” 

A goalie in a red jersey makes a save as seen from the drone
A drone shot shows Smitty (in red) making a save. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

He quickly adds: “It’d be no good coming out here if you didn’t get shot at.”

Smitty didn’t learn to skate until he was 16, but then quickly made a name for himself, playing with teams including St. Dunstan’s, Sandy’s Royals, and the Islanders.

In 1981, he packed his gear away — briefly. Six years later, he heard about a noon-hour hockey league. 
 
“Thirty-five years later, I’m still here. I enjoy coming to the rink. It’s my exercise. Good camaraderie with the guys,” Smith said. “You don’t get old by playing. You get old if you don’t play.”

A hockey goalie in a red jersey and full mask and pads stands in his net.
Smith was sidelined last winter with an injury, and is happy to be back. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Smith was sidelined last winter with a knee injury, though. 

“I’m just getting back now; getting close to 100 per cent, but not quite,” he said. “Sometimes I get down, it’s a little hard to get up, but it’s not because I’m 81. It’s because I got a tweak of my knee.”

Goaltenders are at a premium. Really there’s not a lot of them. When you commit to it, you’ve got to be here.​​​​​​— Gerard ‘Smitty’ Smith

Smith said he will know when it’s time to hang up his pads for good.

“They’ll tell me that, the guys around me. I’ll get the gist from them that things are not going good, and maybe I should pack it in,” Smith said. 

“But when I say that now, there’s nothing but ‘No, you can’t do it.'”

A goalie wearing leather pads and gloves poses with a stick
Smitty was inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 2018. (PEI Sports Hall of Fame)

He continued: “That’s one of the things in rec hockey… goaltenders are at a premium. Really there’s not a lot of them. When you commit to it, you’ve got to be here.

“And I like to think that I’m pretty loyal and committed to it.”

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