At any home game for Stettler Lightning, among the sea of faces that stands out is one of the team’s general manager, Doug Smith, who volunteers his time and resources for the town’s hockey team.
Always smiling, selling 50-50 tickets or visiting with community members, Smith has been a part of Stettler ever since his family moved into town.
“I grew up south of Botha on the family farm and back in those days it felt like going to Red Deer feels today,” Smith said.
But once he started going to high school, Stettler replaced Botha as his hometown.
“Life was quite a bit less complicated then and being on a farm one can use up any extra time pretty easily,” Smith added. “I think that the extra time challenge is the hardest thing facing both parents and kids today. Besides, getting involved in something that holds their interest.”
According to Smith, when he was growing up, sports and being a part of a club was the only form of social interaction that they had.
“But today, kids can get more social interaction in an hour than we did in a month, virtually,” Smith added.
Growing up in a small town, his people skills developed more quickly.
“You would see the same people in good situations and bad, but you knew you would have to interact with them the next day so what you said and how you said it mattered,” Smith explained. “In an urban centre you may never see that person again, so it kind of kept everyone to task as most knew who you were and who your parents were as opposed to larger centres, which might provide one with a larger scope of things to be involved in but it’s different.”
Even though Smith is the general manager of Lightning, it doesn’t stop him from engaging in light-hearted conversation no matter where he is.
“After leaving the farm my other careers have involved people interaction both at Sports Plus and id Apparel, so an ease with striking up a conversation with someone came fairly easily,” Smith said.
Smith’s grandparents owned the store in Botha for many years, which was the training ground for the Smith siblings.
“We used to help out there when we got older – Grandpa Groves and his brother intermingled constantly with their customers and on Saturday night, back then, was the community gathering time when people came to not only get groceries but watch the hockey game and share the events of the week,” recalled Smith.
Smith believes in the gift of giving and it is something that he was brought up with.
“Besides manning the store, my grandfather also volunteered as village mayor and on various other community boards,” Smith said. “Through school you had certain teachers who encouraged you to have an opinion and taught you how to express it.”
Participating in drama club during high school as well as playing hockey instilled the right amount of confidence in Smith.
“You could be playing someone that was totally out of character with the normal life one night and then be stopping pucks the next and that really helped me with the ability to focus on a task and eliminate outside distractions,” Smith added.
Watching other people put in their time so that programs, buildings and all forms of activities could be completed kind of paved the way for Smith’s future involvement. Smith started coaching with Don Falkenberg – his Math teacher in Grade 10 – in 1984. “Then I took some time off to play senior hockey for a few years and eventually coached there for a couple of years, taught power skating in Byemoor for five or six years and went back to coaching a few of the kids for ball and hockey,” Smith said.
Smith was involved in the summer games and the construction and fundraising for the present Rec Centre, before he went back into managing and coaching the Chill program for 15 years.
According to Smith, he first reunited with Don Falkenberg and then Les Schwartz.
“We felt there was a need for rural kids in our area to have the same opportunity as city players, to compete at a high performance level with players from across the province without having to move away from home,” said Smith.
What draws Smith to the game of hockey is the ability to work together but that one moment when the players’ skills overcomes all obstacles, that truly is magical.
“Quade Cassidy’s goal against Ponoka on Tuesday night is a terrific example of that,” Smith said, referring to the Jan. 24 game where Stettler played Ponoka Stampeders winning 6-2.
Smith said that the playoff runs of the 2007 to 2009 was intense and fun but he still has the most pride when he sees a player who may not have the best skills develop his game so that he is contributing regularly.
“Whether it’s through encouragement or technique or just the opportunity to play,” Smith said. “Whatever it was I am glad to have been able to help in any small way. But by placing yourself out there you do have days and some nights when you question your involvement but those are greatly outnumbered by the former players and acquaintances who stop in to ask, ‘remember when’ and that is pretty awesome.”
According to Smith, keeping up to date and communication are important if one wants to coach and be a leader.
“You have to be deeply interested and be on top of things, because in today’s world a lot of people have good knowledge, but you have to be innovative in using the same knowledge so that kids don’t turn into predictable robots,” Smith added. “And communication is key too, especially with younger players (because of how they communicate with each other in 140 characters or less) and that all important eye contact so that they know you understand their situation and they understand yours.”
For Smith, the chance to share in someone else’s life besides your immediate family’s just makes community a bigger place.
“There is something going on every day in our community that needs human power to succeed and the smallest amount of time can mean the world to someone,” Smith said.