VAIL, Colorado - Barry Smith's legacy includes coaching stints with five Stanley Cup winners, but this week found him working with a vastly different group of hockey players.
This week Smith was one of the hockey greats who took to the ice with 56 local 9- to 14-year-olds from the Vail-Eagle Hockey Association at the Rocky Mountain Preseason Hockey Camp at Dobson Ice Arena in Vail.
Smith has been coming to the camp - formerly known as the Red Wings Alumni Camp - for about six years now. The late summer training gives local kids instruction from players and coaches with professional experience. In Smith's case, he was an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins during their 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup championship seasons and then an associate coach with the Detroit Red Wings for the 1997, 1998 and 2002 Stanley Cup years. For the past three yeas he has coached the SKA St. Petersburg team in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League.
Smith said the camaraderie among the coaches and the opportunity to work with enthusiastic kids have consistently brought him back to Vail to participate in the youth camp.
"Its always fun to come back and work at the grassroots," said Smith. "And it's a chance to rekindle old friendships. There's something about the game of hockey that makes friendships that last forever."
He complimented the Vail Eagle Hockey Association for running quality programs.
"You have a special community here in Vail/Eagle and you have two nice rinks," said Smith.
During the week, Smith and his fellow camp instructors not only work with kids, but they also offer coaching advice for local leaders as well as suggestions about how to improve the overall league. He noted that the league has been very open to suggestions for improvement, which is one of the reasons it is such a great organization.
As for advice for would-be players or hockey families, Smith noted that serious involvement with the sport does require a bit fortitude.
"Financially, it is a little restrictive for families," he said. "But you don't have to buy a $200 stick to play hockey. The key issue is commitment."