While it was a short time, it was a good time for Andrew Smiley in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League with the Osoyoos Coyotes.
The Calgary, Alta., product didn’t get the finish he hoped for in his final junior hockey season, but joining the Coyotes helped him secure his future. Smiley is heading east for Castlegar to join the Selkirk Saints program.
“It’s an exciting time and it’s a big opportunity for me,” says Smiley. “Especially with this year, being cut pretty short, it’s nice to get another kick at the can and get my education started.”
Smiley felt the Saints would be a good fit for him because head coach Dave Hantiuk was honest from the start. They also made resources available to him and there are former teammates in the program, including Coyotes goalie Jordan Berschiminsky.
“It made it an easy choice and a great fit,” says Smiley. “It’s definitely nice knowing you will have familiar faces. That was another positive for me.”
Smiley plans to study business and specialize in accounting and finance. Going to Selkirk College gives the five-foot-nine, 170-pound defenceman more time to figure out his educational future.
“The flexibility is quite nice,” he says, adding he will play with the Saints for at least two years.
In three games with the Coyotes this season, Smiley got a confidence boost from more playing time and playing in all situations, especially big minutes at the end of games.
Smiley brings a two-way, physical style, with a focus on the defensive zone. He makes sure to clear the puck from his end and likes to chip in offensively. Smiley played in the Alberta and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s prior to coming to Osoyoos.
“Even though it was only three games, it was a good experience,” says Smiley, who was named the Coyotes captain, and thanked the organization and the community for helping him. “I developed as a leader and those are the biggest takeaways.”
Coming to the KIJHL helped Smiley get on the Saints’ radar, plus head coach Carter Rigby assisted the process with a good recommendation.
“I think he will do just fine. He is a very defensive defenceman,” says Rigby. “If he had been able to play the season out, he would have been one of the top guys on defence in the league. He’s used to being at a higher level. He competes every night and I have no doubt he will step in and be a contributor right away for them.”
Rigby loved that Smiley brought leadership to the Coyotes and comes from a great family. His on-ice play was amazing, especially blocking shots. He came to the rink each day ready to work and was the “ultimate teammate” Rigby says.
“He would have been a pretty special kid to watch,” he says. “What I thought I was getting was definitely better. He set the standard for some of the young guys coming back.”