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A Journeyman’s Work Ethic

Coach Jerrod Smith is ready for his turn behind Spitfires bench
Author: Devan Mighton
Photographer: Anthony Sheardown
7 months ago
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Jerrod Smith’s journey has taken him around the world, from the GTA, to the East Coast, to Western Canada, and from Australia to Europe. However, all roads have led him to Windsor.

On July 24, 2023, the Windsor Spitfires announced Smith as the team’s head coach for the upcoming 2023-24 OHL season—a destination in a hockey career that has been long, winding, and with many stops.

Smith grew up playing AAA hockey with the Burlington Eagles. After two OMHA championships and a trip to the inaugural OHL Cup, Smith was drafted in the fifth round, 85th overall, by the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors in the 2000 OHL Entry Draft.

After a season of Mid-Western Jr. B with the Brantford Golden Eagles, he cracked the Majors’ roster going into the 2001-02 season. As a rookie, that season saw him receive limited playing time and, the following season, when it became clear that the Majors saw no change in his role with the team, he decided to return home to play Provincial Jr. A with his hometown Burlington Cougars.

After high school, he chose to get his undergraduate degree at Acadia University, where he played Nova Scotia Jr. B with the Windsor Royals.

“To be honest, that was probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey—in that league, with those guys, getting the chance to experience a different province and seeing that side of our country,” reflects Smith.

His career ended with brief stops with the Western Sydney Ice Dogs of the semi-pro Australian Ice Hockey League and EHC Adendorf in Germany. “That was the end of my hockey journey, but I got to see some of the world playing in these different leagues,” he says.

He moved west to Calgary to run a recreation program with at-risk youth, then moved back home and commuted to Canisius College in Buffalo to get his Master’s Degree in Sports Administration. During this time, he started coaching junior varsity hockey at Nichols Prep School. “That was my first experience coaching,” he explains. “During my time there, I saw that it was a cool career path that I could see myself following.”

This is where the Spitfires came in. In 2011, through the help of a family member, Spitfires’ coach Bob Jones, Smith interviewed for the job of video coach with the OHL club.

“I jumped at the opportunity,” states Smith. “I came down here and interviewed with Bob [Boughner] and Warren [Rychel] and was hired—that’s how I got my start in the league—and I’ve been here ever since.”

Smith has set roots in the area. He married his wife, Candice, who is from Tecumseh, and the couple now have three kids: Sawyer (7), Jett (5), and Willa (9 months).

“I think they have an idea now of what their dad does for a living,” says Smith of his sons. “They love going to the games and love watching the away games when I’m not home and kind of understand my schedule when I’m gone for three or four days.”

“I couldn’t be more thankful for the support system that I have here in Windsor—with my family, my extended family, and all of my family and friends that are back home.”

After starting with video, Smith jumped to assistant coach, serving under Boughner and Rocky Thompson, and then associate coach under Trevor Letowski and Marc Savard.

“I’ve been fortunate to learn from so many great mentors who have taught me so much and have helped me along the way,” states Smith. “I owe a lot to all those guys for the leadership and the friendship that they have provided to me over the years. It’s certainly gotten me to where I am today.”

Smith says that the biggest lesson he has learned under these coaching greats is the importance of maintaining relationships, not just with the players, but with the staff, and everyone associated with the team.

Joining Smith on the bench will be former NHLer and LaSalle native Andy Delmore, former NHL scout Casey Torres, and former NHL goalie Michael Leighton, along with Johnathan Moran as video coach, and Kathy McLlwain as skating coach.

“I want people to come away after watching us play, no matter what the result is, and say to themselves, ‘Man, does that team ever work hard and compete and play for each other,'” explains Smith. “I want us to take pride in defending together, being unselfish, ultra-competitive, and passionate about how we play the game.”

With training camp already underway and the season opener on the horizon, Smith is chomping at the bit to get started.

“I’m really excited to work with this group and have had some great conversations with the players, who are eager and hungry to get started here,” he states. “I think we’ve got a great bunch of kids who want to accomplish a lot this season and make this city super proud of us.”

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