(Article written by Martin Martinson/BattlefordsNow)
The Battlefords North Stars recently announced their inaugural inductee to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) Hall of Fame for this summer’s induction ceremony in the Battlefords.
To no surprise, the first name announced was that of Edam and North Battleford’s Smith Family.
Longtime North Star and franchise leader in goals, Martin Smith and Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and North Battleford Sports Hall of Fame member, Fiona Smith-Bell were on hand before puck drop Saturday night at the Access Communications Centre, for a special pregame ceremony announcing the news to a roar of applause from the hometown crowd.
After all, hockey – and the local junior club – has always been a big part of life for the Smith family, for as long as they can remember.
Born to immigrant parents from the United Kingdom, Dr. Ian McDonald Smith and his wife, Gloria raised their children around the game, where the hockey rink would quickly become a second home, and the source of countless memories.
It was their mother, Gloria Smith who took it upon herself to flood the outdoor rink for the kids to hone their skills from their earliest days growing up.
“I remember seeing a picture from before my first birthday, I had a hockey stick in my hand, and from there it just kind of took off,” Martin said with a laugh, thinking back on his earliest introduction to the game. “If we weren’t out there [in the yard] playing for the Stanley Cup after school or on weekends, we were at the town rink playing and getting on the ice as much as we could.”
Fiona said it was their parents’ influence that comes to the top of her mind with the news of the family’s induction, for the lasting impact their passion and values continue to hold today.
“I remember that Dad was such a great role model, not only for myself, Martin and [our sister] Gillian, but for many, many others in the community,” Smith-Bell said. “He inspired so many people through his energy and sense of community, and I like to think that Martin and I continue to give back as much as we can to the sport of hockey with the way we were raised by mom and dad clearly a big reason why we get so much satisfaction from giving back to the sport and our communities.”
Martin remains a prominent name in the North Stars’ franchise record books, still first in total goals (158) and points (376) in 254 career games donning the North Stars’ crest over the lion’s share of five seasons from the fall of 1987 to spring of 1992.
While Fiona may not have played in the SJHL specifically, she too has always been connected to the team through her father and brother and still remembers fondly the occasions in which she was able to skate with the team for their conditioning camps in the offseason, as a guest coach back when Todd McLellan coached the team in the early ’90s.
The Smith family’s legacy around hockey in the Battlefords and with the North Stars continues to this day, with Fiona’s son and Martin’s nephew, Kian Bell currently playing in his second season with the local junior club.
After leading the league in scoring last season and becoming the first North Stars’ player since his uncle over 30 years ago to score 50 goals in a season, Bell is once again pacing the SJHL in points this year.
Martin said as he looked out at his old #27 dashing around the ice – which Kian wears as a homage to his uncle – he sometimes can’t help but do a double-take, reminded of his own time donning the North Stars’ crest, not all that long ago.
“It’s very special, and in a lot of ways it makes me feel like I’m back in my era playing again because you’re around the team a lot more, and it’s so exciting to watch,” he said of his nephew’s involvement with the team. “Kian’s such a dynamic player, and the things he does on the ice… sometimes you just shake your head at some of the moves he makes and how he sees the ice so well.
“I know [my parents] are smiling down with a lot of excitement at him being able to play in the North Star uniform as well, and have our family involved like we are.”
The 2024 SJHL Hall of Fame Induction ceremony will be held June 22 at the Access Communications Centre, following the team’s annual Annual Alumni Golf Tournament to open the weekend of June 21.