Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Genoa's Smolinski heads south

Forgive Bryan Smolinski for feeling a little down these days.

Earlier this month, the Cardinal Stritch High School graduate who grew up in Genoa, was traded for the fifth time in his 13-year NHL career.

To make matters worse, Smolinski went from a Stanley Cup contender - the Ottawa Senators - to a playoff pretender - the Chicago Blackhawks.

The 'Hawks, one of the NHL's original six teams, have fallen on hard times. They haven't won a Stanley Cup in 45 years and have reached the postseason just once since 1997.


Bryan Smolinski scored 17 goals and had 31 assists for 48 points last season for Ottawa, a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. During his 13 year NHL career, he has 248 goals and 334 assists for 582 regular-season points, plus 20 goals and 25 assists in the playoffs for 45 points.


"It stinks anytime you get traded," Smolinski said from his home in Birmingham, Mich. "I was very, very surprised. Hockey in Canada is a religion and playing in Ottawa was an unbelievable experience. My family and I really enjoyed living there.

"When you walked down the street, everybody knew who you were."

In all likelihood, the 34-year-old Smolinski won't get the same kind of reception in the Windy City.

The dreadful Blackhawks are the fifth option in Chicago, behind the defending World Series champion White Sox, Cubs, Bears and Bulls.

"We've got to try to get hockey back on the front page of the sports section," Smolinski said. "Right now, they're back on page 5 or 6."

Smolinski has done his best to try and put a positive spin on the complicated three-way trade that sent the veteran center and speedy right wing Martin Havlat from the Senators to the Blackhawks. Chicago quickly signed Havlat to a three-year, $18 million contract.

Smolinski still has one year left on the four-year, $10 million deal he signed with Ottawa in 2003. The Blackhawks will be Smolinski's sixth team. In addition to the Senators, he has played for the Boston Bruins - the team that drafted him No. 1 out of Michigan State in 1990 - Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings.

"The one good thing about getting traded is it gives you a fresh start," said Smolinski, whose wife Julie is expecting their third child in early August. "Ottawa kind of let me fall by the wayside, but Chicago is really excited to have me and Marty, who is a real playmaker and an elite player in the league."

Smolinski, 6-1 and 215 pounds, was a third-line center at the end of last season. He appeared in 81 games with Ottawa, scoring 17 goals with 31 assists for 48 points.

Four of his goals came on the power play and he also had five game-winners.

Smolinski has played in 910 career NHL games, scoring 248 goals and adding 334 assists for 582 points, and 99 playoff games, scoring 20 goals and 25 assists for 45 points.

"He's a veteran who will fill a hole that we had at that position," Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon said. "He has a lot of experience that will fit in well with our young team."

Smolinski got his first taste for the game by watching the old Toledo Goaldiggers of the International Hockey League.

His parents still live in Genoa and his sister lives in Rossford.

They'll get plenty of opportunities to see Smolinski play this season because Chicago plays in the Central Division with both Detroit and Columbus.

On second thought, maybe this latest trade wasn't so bad.

At least now Smolinski will have his own family cheering section on some nights.

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