Speedy Smith Took His Time To Reach His Goals

Trish Bradle

Craig Smith remembers his first day on the ice. It was a brisk Wisconsin morning when his dad laced up the skates in the car, carried him to the rink and gave him a small push. And he hasn’t slowed down since.

Along the way, an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin, Bill Butters, gave him the nickname Taz, because he said he was so fast and could get anywhere on the ice that he was like a Tasmanian Devil.

It’s a good thing he liked it because the nickname has followed him to Nashville, where he is suiting up for his fifth season with the Predators.

Craig Smith

Position: Right wing
Shoots: Right
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 202 pounds
Birth Date: Sept. 5, 1989
Hometown: Madison, Wis.
Junior Hockey: Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)
College Hockey: University of Wisconsin
Acquired: Selected by Nashville in the 4th Round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft
USA Hockey History: A four-time member of the U.S. Men’s National Team, including the squad that won the bronze medal at the 2013 IIHF World Championship in Helsinki, Finland, and Stockholm, Sweden. Also competed in 2011, 2012 and 2014. A member of the U.S. Junior Select Team that earned first place at the 2008 World Junior A Challenge in Camrose, Alberta. Also represented the U.S. at the 2007 World Junior A Challenge in Trail and Nelson, B.C.

Like many kids growing up in Madison, Wis., Smith didn’t just harbor NHL dreams. His sights were set closer to home, suiting up in the red and white with the Badgers.

But before he could get there, Smith made the leap of faith by leaving Madison’s La Follette High School to play for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League.

For a man known for his speedy approach to the game on the ice, Smith took time with his development, putting in the hours of hard work over the course of three seasons in Waterloo.

“I buried my head and just wanted to be as good as I could be and get better each day,” Smith said.

Sticking to that philosophy was enough to punch his ticket home.

“To be able to go play somewhere I had been watching growing up was a huge honor,” recalls Smith, who earned 76 points in two seasons with the Badgers. “Good coaches and good guys there, all around [it was] a positive experience. I can’t say enough good things about it.”

Over the years, Smith has added blue to his red and white jersey, answering his country’s call when asked. On four occasions he has represented Team USA at the IIHF World Championships. Playing on the larger ice surface suits Smith’s game, as three times he has earned honors as one of Team USA’s top players.

While individual accolades are nice, he has his sights set on one day helping the U.S. bring home its first gold medal in the event.

Before that day comes, Smith is looking forward to taking the next step toward NHL stardom and taking the Predators with him.

“I’ve been there since the start of my career, so it’s a place where I feel comfortable and one I call home,” says Smith, who signed a five-year deal in the offseason.

As a role model for youth hockey players in his home state of Wisconsin and his adopted town of Nashville, Smith remembers the positive lessons his dad taught him, and offers the following piece of advice to kids hoping to one day be in his skates.

“Sacrifices need to be made for what you want,” Smith says. “If you can learn to manage those sacrifices, you’re going to do just fine in life.”

Coming off a year where he put up his best numbers as a pro, Smith can look back and realize that making those sacrifices and putting in the work have gotten him where he is today.  It might not have always been easy, but playing under the bright lights in Nashville has made it all worth it.

“Learn to enjoy the hard moments,” he says. “Those are the ones that you’ll remember."



Youth Star


Age: 13
Linwood, Mich.

Changing positions from defense to wing isn’t the only thing that will keep Brett Helmreich busy this season.

The 13-year-old from Linwood, Mich., is taking five honors courses at Western Middle School, while devoting time to some of his other hobbies.

Helmreich knew that a big part of his job as a defenseman was to kick start the offensive attack from the backend. Now he is excited to be the one leading the offensive charge.

“I liked assisting the goals,” Helmreich said. “I would like to score more goals and I work my hardest in practice so I get better.”

His work ethic doesn’t just pertain to hockey. He will be taking honors Algebra, chemistry, life science, history and English in his eighth grade class. On weekends when there isn’t hockey, he has another hobby to take up his time.

“I really like to do archery,” he said. “I just started a couple years ago and I’ve gotten better. I’ve practiced, just like you have to do in hockey.”

This year he was invited to compete against other archers from around the state.

Helmreich said he hopes to keep improving on the ice with a goal of playing for his local high school team, and hopefully move up from there.



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Matthew Tkachuk
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