GLENS FALLS — Hockey fans probably believe there are many differences between winning a Stanley Cup and winning a Calder Cup. They might be surprised to learn winning the Calder Cup is more fun, at least from Neil Smith’s perspective.
Smith was the former general manager for the Adirondack Red Wings in the 1980s and who went on to be GM for the New York Rangers during their 1994 Stanley Cup win. He was back in Glens Falls on Saturday as one of three to be inducted into the Adirondack Hockey Hall of Fame. The other inductees were former Red Wings Chris Tancill and Norm Maracle.
Smith, who won Calder Cups with Adirondack in 1985-86 and 1988-89, called winning the Stanley Cup in New York “a world event” and said it was a draining experience.
“This one, this was just us — little group of fans, this little town and we’re all so happy. People outside of Glens Falls didn’t even know what happened. Although the New York thing was great and I wouldn’t give it back for the world, I can tell you the ones we won here were pure fun,” Smith said.
The three were introduced during the first intermission of Saturday’s game, a 2-1 Adirondack Thunder victory over Brampton.
Tancill, who played for Adirondack in the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons and owns the Adirondack record for most goals scored in a regular season (59), agreed with Smith’s point.
“It’s still a game, and sometimes that gets lost the further up you go,” said Tancill, who had 109 goals, including playoffs, in two seasons with Adirondack.
Smith has another tie-in between the Rangers and Glens Falls. The Rangers’ magical 1993-94 season started with training camp in Glens Falls, a move he engineered.
“It was a totally selfish idea on my part because I loved Glens Falls and I loved Bill Dineen and I loved my whole seven years here with Bill,” said Smith, who figured that the Rangers would stay at the Queensbury Hotel, train at the Glens Falls Civic Center and love the small-town atmosphere away from the noise of the Big Apple.
“Well, I think that was the last year we came up here,” Smith chuckled. “ ‘Mess’ and those guys sort of wanted to be in a little nicer hotel, a little bit nicer places, but I think they appreciated all the people here.”
Besides the many good times Smith had in Glens Falls, he remembered some funny ones as well. Like the time one player rented a car in Glens Falls and sold it in Montreal. Then there was the time when the Detroit Red Wings sent down Bob Probert and Petr Klima.
“And I’ve got to be the one to look after these guys,” Smith recalled. “I’m sitting in the lobby watching them come in and they’ve probably been in every bar downtown before they came in, and I was somehow going to discipline Bob Probert. That’s really going to happen!”
One of Tancill’s favorite memories was his first game with the Red Wings after being traded from Springfield. Barry Melrose was his coach.
“I was tussling with a guy much bigger than I was,” Tancill said. “And I thought, well, I gotta prove to my team how tough I am, so I lined up, tucked in my chin and hoped I didn’t get knocked out. And then I got a tap on the shoulder, and it’s Jim Cummins. He goes, ‘I’ll take care of this.’ I skate to the bench and Barry says, ‘watch this.’ Needless to say, he patted me on the back and said, ‘You’ll never have to fight again, just go score goals,’ ”
Maracle couldn’t come due to a family emergency, but Adirondack Thunder coach Brad Tapper, who played with Maracle for parts of five seasons, spoke on his behalf.
“Not the best practice player in the world, not the fittest player in the world, but when it came time to stop the puck, Norm was there,” Tapper said.
Tapper said he appreciated Maracle having a clear line between game time and his own time.
“In 2002, we flew into Las Vegas: the guys, the wives, girlfriends,” Tapper recalled. “We were in the lobby of a deluxe hotel, and Norm goes, ‘You know what? I’m just going to do the Worm.’ And you know Norm, he’s 5-foot-8, a little heavier than some people, and he starts going down the hall, about a thousand people taking pictures and videos.”
NOTES: With the second assist on Andrew Radjenovic’s third-period goal, James Henry became the Adirondack Thunder’s all-time points leader with 100. Radjenovic scored his fourth goal of the season 3:45 into the third on assists from Evan Neugold and Henry. … Shane Conacher scored the Thunder’s first goal 22 seconds into the game. … Drew Fielding earned his seventh win of the season with 29 saves.