CORNER BROOK, N.L. - Back on the ice playing the game he loves for fun.
An escape from the daily grind of life and the challenges that get thrown at you.
T. J. Smith is back playing competitive hockey again and it’s a lot of fun.
The St. Anthony native, a champion for those struggling with mental health issues after struggling with depression in his own world, is a welcomed addition to the Deer Lake Red Wings of the West Coast Senior Hockey League.
Smith, a former Western Kings star who played NCAA Division 1 hockey, is a former coach and general manager of the Yarmouth Mariners and assistant coach for the Valley Wildcats and Truro Bearcats, Junior A teams in the Maritime Hockey League.
Smith decided to return to St. Anthony early in January after his son and the mother of his child decided to move to Toronto.
The days of fighting suicidal thoughts are behind him and he’s thankful for the support he received along the way so now he’s just focused on making the most out of life.
While being back home provides him with an avenue to continue shooting around the puck, it also enabled him to establish his mental health business on familiar turf and he’s also been busy passing on his hockey wisdom to young boys and girls on the Northern Peninsula through hockey schools.
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He’s been in the lineup for the Red Wings for the past four games and certainly didn’t look out of place despite the fact he’s been away from competitive hockey for a number of years.
“Coming home was something I had to do and so far it’s been good,” Smith said. “I didn’t know what to expect at first, but now that I’ve played a few games it feels good again.”
The 31-year-old likes the concept of local players playing for their community and believes it’s the way to keep senior hockey alive because bringing in imports has proven to be too costly on too many occasions over the years.
He remembers the times when players came into the province on the weekends and got a fair chunk of change for playing a few games of hockey and going back home again.
He was one of them for a couple of years and he admits there were many imports (including himself) who were only motivated by the envelope of cash at the end of the weekend.
“Some were just coming over to get the money. They didn’t really care and didn’t have that much pride in playing,” he said.
Smith is expected to give the Red Wings some experience and depth in the quest for a senior hockey title.
They’ll probably get a little more given the fact Smith has proven to be a guy who is willing to fight for something he truly believes in.