Like many junior hockey players chasing the brass ring of college scholarships or NHL scouts’ attention, Parksville’s Brodie Smith has spent several nomadic years with multiple organizations on Vancouver Island.
And now, the journey has dropped him back at his own doorstep. For the third time.
Smith, a 19-year-old forward who began his junior hockey career with the hometown Quality Foods Oceanside Generals, was reacquired by the club this month and is looking forward to settling in after playing for three different teams a season ago.
“I ended up getting a full-time job and an apprenticeship here, so I decided to go with that,” said Smith, who is working and training as an auto body technician at Trojan Collision. “I just want to play hockey and have some fun.”
Hockey, of course, is most fun when you’re winning hockey games. But wins have been a commodity in limited supply for the Generals in recent years. They are coming off a 13-31-1-3 season, in which it was the odd squad out when the nine-team Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League held its eight-team playoffs.
Those 13 wins actually represented a big jump after the team notched eight wins in 2013-14 and just seven in 2014-15.
With a large core of veterans returning from last year’s young team, a new head coach and a general attitude from management to players that a change is in the air, Smith is eager to be on the front line of that turnaround.
“I want to be proud to play for this team,” he said. “I want to help make it exciting for the fans and make it something the community wants to be a part of.”
Smith’s goal-scoring credentials are well established, and he’s put up some of his best numbers with the Generals. As a 16-year-old rookie with the club in 2013-14, he matched the team lead with 12 goals and was second in points with 30 in 43 games.
Last year, in a memorable two-week stint with the Generals sandwiched between tours in Alberni Valley and Westshore, he scored seven goals and nine points in a six-game outburst. Between the three hockey programs, he managed 12 goals and 20 points, but was limited to 25 games by a pair of injuries. A broken rib limited Smith to five games in Port Alberni before he was sent to the Generals and a broken collarbone cost him a playoff appearance with Westshore.
“In all my time playing hockey, that was the first year I ever had a broken bone,” he said. “And then I get them all at once.”
Smith, who spent his age 17 season with the Junior A Cowichan Capitals, scoring five goals and 11 points in limited minutes spread across 48 games, is now being counted on as a veteran leader and point producer for the Oceanside squad.
Depending how his tryouts at Junior A camps this week turn out, blueliner Wyatt Meiers may be the only other player still with the Generals from that lost 20013-14 season.
“Brodie Smith will be huge,” Gens’ head coach Gerry Bickerton said. “He’s been here before and he knows what it’s going to take.”
As a youth growing up playing in the Oceanside Minor Hockey system, Smith remembers watching the Generals, back when they were at least a .500 team in the thick of the playoff hunt.
“I can remember coming to games as a kid and asking my dad to buy me a jersey,” he said with a smile.
Now, Smith has a jersey with his own name on the back. The next order of business is convincing today’s youths that it’s worth asking their own parents to get them one.
“This is a good group of guys,” Smith said during last weekend’s main hockey camp. “It’s a little different mindset; they really want to win. We want to bring back the excitement.”