By Ed Kimberley
I caught up with Coventry Blaze defenceman Mark Smith ahead of the 2014/15 campaign. No stranger to the Elite League, Mark, a native of Edmonton, Alberta will be entering his 6th season on UK ice. So far Mark has logged 241 regular season games and 14 playoff appearances with Edinburgh and Blaze rivals, the Cardiff Devils.
Ed Kimberley – Mark thank you for taking some time out of your day to catch up with us, this will be your 6th season in the EIHL, how will you be spending your offseason and how much are you looking forward to pulling on a blaze jersey for the first time?
Mark Smith –The off-season for me has been rather quiet. Just been staying busy with going to the gym and developing an eBay habit. Got a few weddings to attend here in the UK coming up as well, so they should be fun. My wife and I will be heading back to Canada for July also, so I’m looking forward to catching up with all my family and friends. We have a few road trips planned in Canada as well, which will be a good time. I will also look to get on the ice back in Canada as much as I can. Aside from that, I am really looking forward to getting the season started with the Blaze. Obviously big rivals with Cardiff, so it may be a little strange at first, but nonetheless I am really excited for the season, and seeing some of the signing Marc has made it looks like we will have a really competitive team this season.
EK – Coach Lefebvre has described your play as “very good defensively” and you’ve been described by Neil Francis as “consistently great on the ice.” How would you describe your game?
>MS – I would describe my game much like Marc has. I try to be as sound defensively as I can and really pride myself on being solid in my own zone. With that in mind also I feel I to have the capabilities of chipping in offensively whenever I can. Basically I am going to do whatever I can to help the team win. If that means blocking shots or taking a hit to make a play, I’m going to do whatever has to be done to help the team be successful. I just try to prepare myself as best as I can before hand and work as hard as possible on the ice, and that is what I try to give every game.
EK – A bit of a lighter question for you, coach Lefebvre said he “didn’t expect a whole lot of offense” from you, now as team mates (albeit in more games) you outscored Marc in Edinburgh, do you hope to surprise both your new boss and the fans with offensive contributions?
MS – I am well aware of the expectations Marc has of me, and I am a defensive minded D-man, but with that in mind, as I alluded to in the previous question I do feel I have the capabilities to chip in with decent numbers given the opportunity. As for outscoring Marc up in Edinburgh, I was quite shocked at that with him being the offensive dynamo he his. Jokes aside though, I will bring a solid defensive game, but I feel that I will pleasantly surprise people with my offensive contribution.
EK – Marc made an immediate impact behind the bench, carving some key victories to help the Blaze reach the post-season. How important was his return to the helm important for you in signing in Coventry? How did the deal come about?
MS – Knowing Marc and playing with him previously was a huge reason for choosing to play for the Blaze. I know the kind of person he is and what he brings to the rink every day and I am excited to be apart of that. I approached Marc if he was interested in having me in Coventry and I got an almost immediate response from him that he wanted me there. The professionalism from him and everybody within the organization has been fantastic, and I know I will enjoy my time playing for the Blaze.
EK – Although there is a long way to go in the offseason, the team look to have a strong leadership core with Egener, Goertzen, Tait and Cowley, just how important is it to have guys like these on the roster?
MS – It is massive to have a veteran presence like we have on the team. It is those kind on guys that will do all the little things that need to be done to win games. That kind of approach to the game is contagious and will rub off on the younger and less experienced guys on the team. Having those kind of players also makes everyone around them raise their level of play.
EK – Having played numerous games in the Skydome over the past 5 years, how does it feel as an opposing player when the fans turn it into a fortress? And, be honest, did you ever hear the chirping from the block behind the away teams bench?
MS – The fans in Coventry do bring a great deal of passion and create a great atmosphere. And I absolutely heard the chirping that goes on from behind the bench. I don’t think I personally ever acknowledged whoever is doing it, but I think they gave up heckling me after a couple years cause I ignored them. But it is pretty funny at times as there have been some pretty good exchanges between them and some of my teammates.
EK – Again Mark, thank you for answering a few questions and we look forward to seeing you come August/September time. However I do have one final question for you….. Rangers or Kings?
MS – No problem, Anytime. I cannot wait to get started in Coventry and in answer to your question. Not sure if this counts now with the Kings being up 3-1, but I am going to say Rangers.
March’s Note: Wrong answer Smith!