Friday, May 30, 2008

Smith still in the mix


Daily News Sports Editor

Craig Bonner, the general manager of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, has admitted to being most impressed with Barry Smith.

Smith, it seems, is quite impressed with Kamloops and the Blazers.

“I think it’s a great spot,” Smith told Jeff Paterson of Vancouver radio station Team 1040, “with the ownership group that’s in there, with Craig Bonner, a young general manager who I think is a real up and comer . . . I think that is a great spot to start in the Western Hockey League or any major junior (league).

“They’re looking to get back to past glory where they’ve been before and I think it would be a real (good) spot to be.”

Yes, Smith told Paterson, a former radio voice of the Blazers, he is quite interested in becoming the Blazers’ next head coach.

“Yes I am. I am,” Smith said “At this point . . . I’d like to be a head coach. Obviously, at some point I’d like to get back to the National Hockey League, as a head coach.”

Smith spent the last five years on the staff of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. He and fellow assistant Mike Kelly were fired by the Canucks last week.

“From where I am at I’m going to have to go back to the American league or major junior, the Western league, and be a head coach and prove myself before I can move back up the ladder in that way,” Smith said. “So I am definitely interested there.”

The Blazers’ new ownership group fired Dean Clark, the general manager and head coach, on Nov. 7. He was replaced by interim head coach Greg Hawgood. Hawgood is expected to be an assistant coach under the new head coach.

Smith, a 47-year-old native of Stambaugh, Mich., lives in Whitefish, Mont. He and his wife, Carolyn, have three sons.

Smith has been coaching since 1992-93 when he was an assistant coach with the ECHL’s Erie Panthers. He was an assistant there for three seasons and was the team’s head coach in 1995-96. He had his only stint in junior hockey in 1996-97, as the head coach of the USHL’s Waterlook Blackhawks. He then spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the ECHL’s Baton Rouge Kingfish before joining the Canucks’ organization.

With the Canucks, he worked as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, the IHL’s Kansas City Blades and the AHL’s Manitoba Moose before joining the big club.

Asked by Paterson if he felt an announcement out of Kamloops was imminent, Smith replied: “No, I don’t think so. I think they’ve got a little bit more of a process to go through.

“I think they want to be fairly thorough. Again, it’s hurry up and wait.”

Smith is spending the weekend waiting and fishing . . . in Alaska.

Bonner said Friday afternoon that Smith “is still in the mix.”

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