Tracking down Stacy Smallman was a lot easier than I thought it would be. All I had to do was "google" him, and find a contact email within my first hit. Within half an hour of emailing him, we were talking via email.
Stacy is a prolific figure when it comes to Hockey in O'Leary. Born in Unionvale, Smallman is now 34. Upon my entering this project I read his name in the research. I figured he was definitely worth a mention. The son of Frank and Marlene Smallman, he played hockey here for awhile. He then went on to play with Summerside Western Capitals, winning the Centennial Cup in a final game against the South Surrey Eagles by a final score of 4-3. Summerside hosted the tournament in its entirety. He also had a brief tenure with Pensacola Ice Pilots, a pro team in the ECHL in the 1997/98 season. Then he moved on to play with UNB. Upon graduating from UNB he became the coach of the prospect's team. Taking them to Gold.
Stacy is widely regarded as one of the best hockey players to come out of OLeary. Billy McKendrick was not shy in holding anything back in regards to Stacy. He said the man embodies hockey talent, and after hearing this, I knew coming from Billy, that I had to get in touch with Stacy. So, the emails began.
Lo and behold though, on one fine day, Stacy got ahold of me with the news that he was going to be in the area in a few weeks. We instantly set up a meeting. When Stacy showed up, the man had a presence. I felt like I was dealing with an NHL star. We sat down and talked for awhile, popping questions back and forth. We talked about hockey, and what it was like coming from a small town in rural PEI, how that may or may not have effected his game. I even managed to make him laugh, bringing up memories that had not appeared in his mind for years.
Talking with Stacy, it was easy to see why he was so highly regarded. The guy just felt like an all star. After awhile the main conclusion we came to was simple. Coming from O'Leary just gave him that drive. That urge to do better. Being so far removed from "mainstream" hockey gave one the sense that they had to push harder, play harder if they wanted to make it into the NHL. He said the same thing probably went through most player's minds including his best friend and fellow hockey player Darcy Harris.
One thing he wanted to let everyone know is this; the future of hockey lies on those who play it now. They are the next generation of players and coaches for the community. It's guys like Darcy and himself who will carry it forward. They both coach a hockey school O'Leary in the fall and will continue to do so as long as is required of them. One can say, the man is very inspirational.
To go to two finals in four years with UNB while taking home a silver medal the first year, and a gold in 2007, his fourth year, that in itself is no small accomplishment. One can say they must have been impressed since Stacy now coaches the prospects team.
If you were to look back over his hockey career, Stacy started playing later than most. He hated it at the start, which seperates him further. He was four or five when he first laced up his skates. His aunt bought them for him, and when he first stepped onto the ice at the O'Leary arena, he started crying. Not exactly the reaction one would anticipate from a man who is now so deeply passionate for the sport. That all changed, however, as he grew more and more to love the sport. He had dreams of being just like Eric Lindros.
"I also can remember the end of every season, they would hold awards ceremonies for all the kids. It, for me, was the saddest day of the season. Why? Because it was the end of hockey for that year! I was a mess for days!" Recalls Smallman.
But, a few weeks later, you could usually find Stacy with his best friend Darcy out behind the elementary school playing ball hockey.
"One time, Matthew Morgan, Darcy's cousin, lost two front teeth from a pile up at the net. We all took him to his mother. Her reaction was priceless. 'Well! At least he's had a good time playing' she said. I still think that's hilarious, but also it shows that everyone, even our mothers, have that love of hockey." Smallman said.
To summarize it all in full, Stacy stated that hockey in O'Leary is something the community cherishes, and carries. "It's the people who can play, have kids and teach those kids all about it. Guys like me, Darcy, my brother, those kids in my story. We know the game, we give it back. As long as that happens, hockey will always be big in O'Leary."
Stacy Smallman #19, releases a shot for the UNB V-Reds in 2007
Stacy Smallman waves to his family, moments after winning the Gold in 2007 with the UNB V-Reds
Stacy Smallman in 2007 with his two sons, Spencer and Sloan