/ FACES Magazine May/June 2017
Ottawa Senators star Zack Smith has made waves this season, signing his first four year contract with the team and having an impressive offensive output throughout the year.
Even on the ice, suited in red and black, Zack’s appearance gives him away as the rugged outdoorsman from the West that he is. As the boy who grew up in rinks across Saskatchewan and Alberta, Zack’s roots are in a small-town called Maple Creek (could there be anywhere more Canadian?). It was in this small-town setting that Zack learned the game that would carry his career, met his soon-to-be wife, and spent afternoons with his Dad—a carpenter by trade.
Zack’s workshop is the place he can be found when not at the rink—we sat down with him there for an interview unlike traditional off-ice discussions.
Zack shows us around his workshop wearing a plaid shirt and carhartts.
FM: Is this a standard out t on your days off?
ZS: Tighter fitting clothes. Safety first! Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, at least you look like a wood- working hipster.
FM: When we last spoke to you, towards the end of the 2013-2014 season, we spoke about the path to the NHL and what it was like getting your start with the Senators. Over the last 3 seasons, you have established yourself as a key member of the team and were recently rewarded for your efforts with a new 4-year contract. Did you and that playing in a contract year was extra pressure for you?
ZS: I wouldn’t be honest if I said I wasn’t worried at times about signing an extension with Ottawa. You try to put that in the back of your mind so you can go out on the ice and only worry about performing as best you can. People had asked if I would be interested in trying out free agency but for me and my fiancé, Ottawa was always where we wanted to be. We have a great group of guys in the room and the Sens organization has always treated us very well. When the management came back with what we thought was a fair contract, it was an easy decision to sign it.
FM: Hockey and woodworking don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Or do they?
ZS: Wood working has been a hobby of mine for a while now. My dad is a carpenter so he taught me a lot of the basics at a young age. I started really getting in to it about four years ago when I bought my first house in Ottawa. Now I try to learn as much as I can online. It’s important to have hobbies and interests outside of hockey, to get your mind away from the game at times. My first few years of pro I was getting way too good at video games, Call of Duty to be specific, so I decided to retire the Xbox and buy some tools.
FM: Your home is detailed with woodworking—from picture frames to benches, to coffee tables and your very own man cave. If you’re in your workshop, what are you usually working on?
ZS: I mostly stick to working on things like chairs, benches and tables. What I am most proud of is the cottage my dad and I have been building back home in Saskatchewan. It’s been a great opportunity to learn skills on the construction side of carpentry but I’m mostly just grateful to build something with my old man.
FM: You also do a lot of cooking at home. What brings out the inner chef in you?
ZS: My favorite part of cooking is just the hosting and entertaining. Food is a great excuse to get family and friends together and if it’s a decent meal there’s a better chance they will keep coming back. My signature dish is ribs, or seafood risotto.
FM: You are a big music fan, tell us about some of your favourite bands? Who are some bands that you feel are the best to see live in concert?
ZS: Music is a huge interest in my life. Some of my favorite bands are Wintersleep, The Hip, Drive By Truckers, My Morning Jacket, Blue Rodeo, Foals and Pearl Jam to name a few. I live out my rock star dreams vicariously through a few friends who play in bands. When I’m done playing I might try to get on as a roadie and lug around their equipment.
FM: How long did it take you to build your man cave in the basement?
ZS: The man cave was my first real project. I had an idea of what I wanted and just kind of made it up as I went along. For about 3 months I would come home from practice every day and spend a few hours working on it. Like any hobbyist, if I wanted to figure out how to do something like lay brick, I would and a few articles or videos online that show how and from there it was trial and error.
FM: You recently proposed to your lovely fiancée Brittany. How did you pop the question?
ZS: I proposed to her last August at our not yet finished cottage. She’s always hassling me to take her fishing so I told her I was waiting for her at the cabin to take her out. I set up a real’ fancy dinner complete with stem wear and a table cloth. She ended up being held up at work an extra two hours. I planned on asking her after dinner but called an audible and proposed to her as soon as she arrived. After she finally said yes we celebrated with cold Chinese food and wine. We are getting married this summer in Hawaii..”
FM: You have done a lot of work off the ice for charities in the city. Tell us a little about why you feel that giving back to the community here and back in your hometown in Saskatchewan is important to you personally?
ZS: As I get older I have come to realize how fortunate I was to grow up in a town surrounded by people who helped me reach my goal of playing in the NHL. My home town of Maple Creek still means a lot to me so I feel its important to try and give back to a place that’s given me so much. For the past seven years we have held a charity golf tournament which helps raise funds for the local hospital, Horizon House and the South West Youth Emergency Shelter among others.
FM: As the team prepares for the Stanley Cup playoffs, what are some of your favourite memories of playing playoff hockey in Ottawa and what are you looking forward to most again?
ZS: One of my favorite memories was winning the Calder Cup with Bingham- ton. Competing in the Stanley Cup playoffs and winning a cup in Ottawa will top that, to say the least.
FM: The team recently stopped to visit Jonathan Pitre when you were in Minnesota. Can you tell us a little about what that trip meant to the team and how it felt to see him down there?
ZS: Our team being able to visit Jonathan in Minnesota was moving to say the least. Jonathan is one of our biggest fans so it was great to be able to show our appreciation even if it was just to stop in and say hi. What I noticed most about him is how considerate he is of people around him. After everything he and his family have been through they have such a positive outlook. Jonathan is the role model I think many of us aspire to be. It was great to see him and wish him the best on his next round of treatments.
FM: How important has your family been to your success to date?
ZS: I wouldn’t be where I am at in my career if it wasn’t for my family. My parents, sisters and fiancé have been there for me every step of the way. I can’t imagine the amount of hours my parents spent driving across Saskatchewan and Alberta for hockey practices and games. I am grateful beyond words for their support.
FM: We have a few quick questions about your teammates: Who is the guy with the worst taste in music?
ZS: Hoffman with his rap music, or Karlsson with his EDM.
FM: Who would be the guy that would actually attempt karaoke?
FM: Who has the worst taste in jokes?
Turris laughs at his own jokes. His jokes are tough to say the least.
FM: What would it be like for you to win the Stanley Cup here in the city of Ottawa?
It would obviously be a huge honor to win the cup but to do it here in the Nation’s Capital would be amazing. I came to Ottawa the year after they went to the cup final but I’ve heard many stories about how crazy the city was during that run and how much support the team received. We want to live that experience for ourselves this time.