By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter! @andrewlindrothh
Alex Smith was born on April 2nd, 1902, in Bootle, Liverpool, England. He began his junior hockey journey as a 20-year-old defenseman and played for the Ottawa Gunners (OCHL) from 1922-1923 and then for Ottawa Rideaus (OCHL) from 1924-1925. During his season with Ottawa Rideaus (OCHL), he dominated in those 11 games, notching seven goals and eight points. After his impressive stint, the Ottawa Senators gunned for the gritty defenseman and signed him to a multi-year deal.
The 22-year-old appeared in just seven games with the Senators during the 1924-1925 season but would earn full-time duty the following season. Although Smith failed to register a point the next season, he did appear in all 36 games and was a significant piece to their shut-down defensive corps. The Senators gathered the pieces necessary to make a Stanley Cup run for the 1926-1927 season, and Smith was excellent on the back-end throughout the season, scoring four goals and five points in 42 appearances. Ottawa went on to capture the Stanley Cup in 1927 after defeating the Boston Bruins, marking Smith as a Stanley Cup champion by age 24.
Smith was a prominent piece of the Senators’ blue-line, and the physicality he brought to his defensive game made it difficult for most players to gain puck possession in their zone. He continued to play for the Senators for the following number of years until 1931 when Detroit Falcons claimed him for the 1931-1932 season in the Dispersal Draft. Smith finished his eight-year tenure in Ottawa, appearing in 286 games, scoring 23 goals and 48 points while racking up 490 PIM. Because Detroit claimed him in this specific draft, Smith would be loaned back to Ottawa after the 1931-1932 season. Smith suited up for all 48 regular-season games for Detroit and recorded six goals and 14 points.
Smith returned to the Ottawa Senators for the 1932-1933 season but did not receive the homecoming he was hoping for. On January 25th, 1933, Ottawa traded the highly touted defenseman to the Boston Bruins in exchange for future considerations, which eventually led to Earl Roche’s acquisition. Smith lit it up offensively for the Bruins, notching five goals and nine points in 16 games, which was rare for defenders back in the day. Smith joined the Bruins for the 1933-1934 season and was utilized for his leadership qualities and gritty defensive plays, which helped Boston build their reputation in the league.
After concluding the 1933-1934 season, the Bruins decided to cash in on Smith’s value and traded him to the New York Americans in exchange for cash. Smith would play his final NHL season with New York, finishing with three goals and 11 points with 46 PIM. The 31-year-old officially retired from his professional playing career in 1934.
Although Smith made decent cash flow as a professional hockey player for 11 years, he made far more money outside of hockey, even during his playing career. Most people don’t know this, but Alex Smith is still considered to be one of the wealthiest athletes of all time. During the regular seasons and especially off-season, Smith worked as an engraver for the Canadian Bank Note Company, making Canadian paper money. When he was with the Senators, he claimed he would work early mornings and days making paper money, then playing his pro hockey games at night.
Smith’s engraving skills were so sought after during the time that it began to overwhelm the defender, “It got to be too much of a strain, and they decided to give me a leave of absence during the hockey season. After the playoffs, I get right to work.” He also did not specialize in engraving just one particular bill. He was able to work with a variety of paper denominations, making him one of the most valuable paper money engravers in all of Canada. His expertise made him one of the most prolific money-making athletes ever.
Throughout his 11-year tenure in the NHL, Smith produced 41 goals and 92 points with a whopping 645 PIM in 443 career games. Alex Smith passed away on November 29th, 1963, in his eventual hometown of Ottawa at the age of 61. Smith will always be known for his playing career in the NHL and the work he did for the Canadian Bank Note Company, where he made a vast amount of the available paper money in Canada during that time. Happy birthday, Alex Smith!