SAN JOSE, Calif. — As far as blood-pumping, career-defining memories go, it’ll be tough for Ben Smith to top June 17, 2013, when the rookie was a last-minute replacement for an injured Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston —playing more than 10 minutes and eventually getting his name on the Cup as a result.
But no matter what happens over the rest of Smith’s hockey career, March 2, 2015 will certainly have a spot high on the list. That’s the day he skated with the Blackhawks in the morning, found out he was traded, hopped a flight to San Francisco, got a police escort to San Jose, and scored a goal 6:28 into the Sharks’ game against Montreal. He even added an assist later in the game.
“A lot of emotions, and a tiring day, but it was fun,” Smith said Saturday morning before facing the Hawks for the first time in a Sharks uniform. “It was a great memory to have. There are certain moments that I’ve looked back on in my pro career where things just kind of happened, and you try and make the most of it, make the most of the opportunity. That was one of those days.”
It’s only been 12 days since Smith was traded, but he’s starting to settle in with the Sharks. He has a goal and two assists in five games, and San Jose entered Saturday’s game 4-1-0 since sending Andrew Desjardins to Chicago for Smith.
For the Hawks, it was mainly a salary dump, a chance to clear more than $1 million ahead of the looming cap crunch. Smith was well-liked in the Hawks room, and his work ethic was unimpeachable, but his production had tailed off. After posting 14 goals and 12 assists last season, he had just five goals and four assists in 61 games this season.
Like most players, Smith was braced for the worst on trade-deadline day. Still, he never saw the trade coming.
“You don’t ever really know,” he said. “But on trade-deadline day, you never feel safe. There’s always a little bit of nerves. That’s part of it, that’s part of the business. Any of us can be moved at any point, but especially on that trade-deadline day. You just take it as it comes and try and make the most of it.”
Smith shrugged off the idea that he has an advantage against the Hawks on Saturday with his in-depth knowledge of all their tendencies, saying that their creativity and unpredictability is what makes them so good in the first place.
With the Hawks’ dads in tow for this trip, most of them went on a tour of Alcatraz on Friday afternoon, so Smith was only able to run into a couple of former teammates on Santana Row. But he was looking very much forward to running into them on the ice at SAP Center.
“Whoever is there, if I have that opportunity, I’ll try and put a little extra muscle behind that one,” he said.