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David Minuk from the Illegal Curve hockey blog has a nice interview on former Fighting Sioux forward Doug Smail. Doug was a member on UND’s 1980 NCAA championship team.
He played over ten seasons with the Winnipeg Jets from 1980/81 until the 1990/91 season when he was traded to the Minnesota North Stars. He came to the Jets undrafted from the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux where he played 3 years in the WCHA, ending his collegiate career with the 1980 Frozen Four tournament. He helped the Sioux win the National Championship (breaking a 17 year drought), as they won the Tournament with a 5-2 victory over Northern Michigan University.
While playing for the Jets he was known for his exceptional speed. He was a gifted two-way hockey player, who was often used in a penalty killing role by Winnipeg. For those IC readers who may not be old enough to recall the 80′s, if I had to compare him to a current NHL player, you could draw a parallel to St. Andrews Manitoba’s Darren Helm, a center for the Red Wings, who has speed aplenty and is often used by the Wings to kill penalties.
Doug currently resides in Colorado where he is the head coach of the Rocky Mountain Roughriders U-15 AAA squad. He was nice enough to take some time to answer some questions for fans of NHL hockey in Winnipeg.
IC: You came to Winnipeg as an undrafted free agent straight from college after winning a National Championship with UND and joined the Winnipeg Jets who only won 9 games that year. How difficult was that first year of pro hockey for you?
Doug: It was thought of as a horrific year by many…and believe me it was not fun. But Fergie and Mike Doran thought they had to begin to gut the organization from a player standpoint and totally rebuild it. I knew it would be tough the way they threw some of us rookies to the wolves in a baptism by fire means, but we also lost a ton of games that year by only a goal…and were quite close to having a pretty decent record if the one goal games had just a little bit more maturity in the lineup. [read the rest of the story]