Hockey-Ron Smith

Ron Smith

The Honourable Ron Smith, twice elected as mayor of his home town, Port Hope, was once Ron Smith, the Cobourg Cougar left-handed defenseman. Ron Robert Smith was born November 19, 1952. Raised in Port Hope he played his minor hockey through the Beaver Athletic Association. He became a member of the Cobourg Cougars for the 1968-69 season when they were part of the Eastern Ontario OHA Junior B League.

He clearly impressed because the next year, at just 16 years old, he played defence in 15 games with the St. Catherine’s Black Hawks of the Ontario Hockey League. Early in the 1970-71 season Ron was traded to the Sorel Eperviers (formerly Black Hawks) of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He played in 42 regular season games and 6 playoff games.

Prior to the 1971-72 season Ron was traded to the Cornwall Royals also in the QMJHL. There he helped the Royals go from a last place finish the previous year to a first-place finish in the league standings. After winning the playoffs vs the Quebec Remparts, the Royals advanced to the prestigious Memorial Cup. There they outfought a strong Peterborough Petes team, winning in the final game by a score of 2-1, and were crowned Canadian Junior Hockey Champions.

During that season, Smith contributed 35 points in the regular season and another 7 during the playoff run. He had 279 minutes in penalties; 86 more than the next closest player John Wensink.

Smith was selected by the New York Islanders in the 4th round, 49th overall in the 1972 NHL Amateur Draft. He no doubt had high hopes, but they don't always work out right away! He did play 11 games for the expansion Islanders, totaling 1 goal and 1 assist and 14 minutes in penalties. But most of that season was spent with the New Haven Nighthawks, the Islanders' affiliate team in the American Hockey League. There he had 6 goals and 11 assists in 53 games.

For the 1973-74 season Smith was sent to the Fort Worth Wings of the Central Professional Hockey League. He played in 72 games. 1974-75 the team was called the Fort Worth Texans and Ron played in 75 games. For the 1975-76 season Ron played in Sweden for the Bodens BK in the Sweden 1st Division. The next season Ron returned to North America and played with the Erie, Pennsylvania Blades of the North American Hockey League. Only playing in 8 games Ron retired as a professional hockey player.

Ron returned home to serve as Port Hope’s mayor for two terms, 1994-2000.

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Out Of Line
By Layton Dodge
January 22, 1969 Cobourg Sentinel-Star

THE PORT HOPE BEAVER ATHLETIC Association may have bitten off more than it can chew in the now celebrated case defined here simply as the Smith-Racine affair.

In a monumental hockey blunder which would do the Russians justice, the BAA - through its ill-advised refusal to grant releases to defencemen Ron Smith and Paul Racine of Cobourg's junior B Cougars and its three month waiting period before bringing the matter to a head - has managed within a very few days to anger, amaze and alienate a sizeable portion of the sensible-thinking sporting populace in both Port Hope and Cobourg. Regrettably, the BAA has only succeeded in giving itself a black eye.

According to reliable informants, certain factions within the BAA began to whisper when Cougars collected $300 for Dennis O'Brien's release to St. Catharines and didn't see fit to hand over part of that amount to the minor hockey group with which O'Brien served the bulk of his apprenticeship. Privately, they fretted that Cougars would reap all the dividends if O'Brien, or any other Port Hope boy on Cougars' roster, eventually was drafted by the NHL. Obviously, they were unfamiliar with the new pro-am agreement.

Some BAA officers became even more disenchanted, it is reported, when they learned Cougars had donated $400 to the Cobourg Church League for player development and gave them none. So, it seems the BAA's original gripe was strictly monetary. Yet the BAA sat on its discontent and let the issue slide - until January when less than a quorum of the executive finally decided it treasured the players more than peaceful co-existence or cold cash. Only then did the blissfully unaware Cougars learn of the BAA's unrest and friction.

Indeed, if the BAA had blown the whistle on Smith and Racine back in October and sought financial re-imbursement at that time or even to retain the boys' playing rights, it might have won a debatable point and gained some needed capital, with comparatively little fuss. The BAA's latest grievous error occurred nine days ago when it rejected - for selfish, stubborn reasons to negotiate with Cougars after junior B manager Clarke Sommerville offered to pay for Smith and Racine's releases. By refusing to come to the bargaining table, the BAA again passed up an opportunity to salvage some self-respect and save face.

If it had jumped at the chance, the whole controversy would have been quickly forgotten. Instead, the rebuff by the BAA apparently infuriated Ron Smith's father, Bob, who now lives in Toronto. Mr. Smith, a former tower of strength on the BAA executive who organized several successful Young Canada Nights in Port Hope in the early 1960s, hired lawyer John Bowles, an associate of Alan Eagleson, in an effort to get clearance for his son and Racine. Bowles is an ex-executive member of the Ontario Hockey Association.

The conflict burst into province-wide print on Saturday in a six-column story published in the Toronto Star: In it, Smith went to bat for the pair of 16-year-olds but suggested no legal action was planned unless "all other avenues are exhausted." BAA president Aubrey Austin refused to comment on the affair other than to say "this is going on all over the country." However, I defy Mr. Austin to pinpoint one other instance where a minor hockey group waited until the boys in dispute had played two-thirds of a season before bringing up the matter of releases.

In the article, Bill Hanley, OHA business manager, accepted the blame for passing Smith and Racine's certificates without releases. He advised that the boys should appeal to the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, a governing body which previously had indicated no appeal could be lodged. Hanley even went so far as to telephone Sommerville Saturday morning to clear up the confusion in this regard.

For an organization that spawned two professional players in less than a decade, the Port Hope BAA has shown shocking short-sightedness and stupidity in pouncing on a technicality resulting from an incredible series of unfortunate mistakes and using it to try and stall the advancement of two native sons up the hockey ladder.

I'm sure Jim Roberts and Paul Terbenche would be the first ones to admit that any player worth his salt doesn't remain in midget hockey when he can make it in junior. The fact is Cougars need Ron Smith and Paul Racine now. The fact is Smith and Racine are most unlikely to want to play for Port Hope Midgets, regardless, now.

The fact is the Port Hope Beaver Athletic Association is away out of line now.

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So Sorry
By Layton Dodge
January 29, 1969  Cobourg Sentinel-Star

In the interests of Cobourg Cougars' Junior B Hockey Club in general, and defencemen Ron Smith and Paul Racine in particular, this reporter, after considerable soul-searching, hereby issues a public apology to the Port Hope Beaver Athletic Association and to three of its officers - namely George Cawker, Aubrey Austin and Andy McLauchlan - for published remarks regarding the recent controversy about releases for the two aforementioned players.

Now that this "so sorry" business is out of the way, I feel an explanation is in order.

The reason for the retraction is simple. It was a stipulation laid down by the Port Hope BAA at a January 23 meeting. Only after I signed a letter promising to print a public apology would releases for the two boys be forthcoming. I did just that last Friday, and Smith and Racine were in Cougars' lineup on Sunday. Upon learning of this unreasonable, rather outrageous demand, my first inclination was to tell the Port Hope BAA to go to hell. But that wouldn't have helped.

So I swallowed my integrity and pride and agreed to apologize because: (a) it was for the sake of the boys and for the benefit of the junior B club; (b) it shows that BAA executives (there are a couple of exceptions) were more concerned about their own image than they were about the players' welfare; (c) I don't think the BAA really expected me to do it; (d) I didn't want it said Layton Dodge stood in the way of a settlement. Undoubtedly, it was the toughest decision I've ever had to make as a sportswriter in 11-and-a-half years on the job. I only hope I did the right thing.

Reviewed August 2020

 

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