As the NHL 2016-17 season closed, Pittsburgh Penguin Sydney Crosby added another chapter to his storied hockey career when he formally received the Conn Smythe Trophy, an award given to the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Crosby became only the sixth player to win multiple Conn Smythe trophies and was only the third to ever do so in back to back years. While these are some impressive feats, let us take a moment to remember the man behind one of the NHL’s most prestigious individual awards.
Constantine Falkland Cary Smythe, or Conn Smythe, was born in Toronto, ON in 1895. It is here that Smythe would become a hockey icon, but not before putting everything on hold for his country. Only a week after Captaining the University of Toronto Varsity Blues to a championship in 1915, Smythe and his teammates enlisted in the Canadian military. Smythe began his time in World War One by serving in the Canadian Artillery, where he saw action at Ypres and later would be awarded the Military Cross for acts of Valour on March 15th, 1917. Four months later Smythe would be transferred to Royal Flying Corp as an artillery observer, but he was soon shot down and held as a POW for the remainder of the war.
Following the First World War, Smythe returned home to become the principal owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Maple Leaf Gardens. After the Second World War broke out, the forty-five-year-old Smythe re-enlisted, and was severely wounded by a piece shrapnel while in France. He would never be the same. Despite his injuries, Smythe continued to play a vital role in the Maple Leafs while also, founding and maintaining the Conn Smythe Foundation, until his death in 1980.
The Canadian Sports Hall of Fame has a good writeup about Smythe. To learn more about the Major’s military experience, check out Gunner.ca, or for a detailed and comprehensive description of Smythe’s life, visit Alchetron.ca.
Photo: Conn Smythe Trophy (Hockey Hall of Fame); Toronto Maple Leafs Logo 1928-38 (Toronto Maple Leafs); Sidney Crosby of Penguins wins Conn Smythe Trophy (National Hockey League); Toronto Feature: Maple Leaf Gardens (Historica Canada); Lt. Conn. Smythe (Canada Library and Archives No. 3221254).