The Free Press (Fernie, B.C.)
June 19, 1994

When the Vancouver Canucks lost hockey’s Stanley Cup to the New York Rangers June 14, some British Columbia fans cried in their beer and others rioted.

But as Rangers’ captain Mark Messier circled Madison Square Garden ice with the Stanley Cup raised triumphantly over his head, a Fernie senior in a house on 5th Avenue watched his television with a smile.

You see, Stan Smith played for the Rangers in 1940, the last time they won the Cup.

He wears his Stanley Cup ring with pride, and as he recalls his days with the team his eyes gleam like those of a small child contemplating a stack of Christmas presents.

“I was happy the Rangers had won,” Smith said June 15 of his reaction to the Tuesday game. “They’d been my team all along. You’ve got to be happy for your team, eh?”

And the Rangers have been the 77-year-old’s favorite team for a long time — ever since he started playing the game as an eight- or nine-year-old on an outdoor rink in the now-defunct village of Coal Creek, just south of Fernie.

As they battled it out on the rink, the Coal Creek kids would pretend they were Frank Boucher or Bill Cook, the Rangers’ stars of the day and eventually Smith’s coaches.

The Rangers remained Smith’s favorite team as he worked his way through junior teams in Fernie, Trail and Rossland in the mid-1930s.

At 21, Smith received a letter asking if he was interested in travelling to Winnipeg to try out for the Rangers. It was a dream come true, but he said he didn’t get too worked up at the time.

“I’m not that excitable,” he said, moving back and forth in his living room rocking chair, “but it feels good when you know someone wants you, I guess.”

After playing three years with Rangers farm teams in New York and Philadelphia, Smith was called up to the Rangers during the fifth game of their Stanley Cup final series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He said he didn’t make it onto the ice, but he was on the bench during all the excitement.

“It was scary,” the former centre and right-wingman said of his experience. “You’re just wondering what you’re going to be like on ice.”

And when the Rangers won the Cup in Toronto after beating the Leafs in the sixth game, Smith was in the dressing room to hold it. But the post-game celebrations were much more tame than they are today.

“They didn’t have this skating around with the Cup then,” Smith explained. “They just brought the Cup to the dressing room, took photos and then everybody adjourned to the hotel banquet.”

Smith said he did get a little drink of champagne out of the then-one-foot-high Cup, but there was no spraying teammates with champagne or all-night partying.

“The mood was happy, but pretty quiet,” he said. “It wasn’t really a big deal. We just had a few drinks, and then it was over.”

In the next few years, Smith served in the army, played hockey in Cleveland and Minneapolis, married Margaret (his wife of nearly 50 years) and finished his hockey career with the San Francisco Shamrocks of the Pacific Coast League.

He then returned to Fernie where he worked for a brewery and a lumber company until he retired in 1983. He now has six children, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

He said hockey is a different game today from what it was in his days as a player. Rule changes have made the game faster and more physical, he explained.

“Now you’ve got to have eyes in the back of your head.”

Smith said he predicted the Rangers would take the Cup this year, but in five games, not seven.

“I guess I’m not a good prophesizer.”

But he added he wished there could have been two winners.

“It was anybody’s series. The Canucks could have won it just as easily as lose.”