Chad Smith’s appearance on the ice for Fife Flyers on Saturday night capped a momentous week for the 17-year-old protégé.
Just two days earlier, Smith was on stage at the Kirkcaldy and Central Fife Sports Council 2016 awards accepting the Youth Award after a year that saw him star for GB under 18s, as well as captaining Fife Falcons to the Scottish U20 league title.
During an on-stage interview, he spoke about his ambition to play in the Elite League for the Flyers, and just 48 hours later, his dreams were realised with a handful of shifts towards the end of the 5-3 defeat to Edinburgh Capitals.
“There’s no better feeling,” Smith told the Press after his EIHL debut. “There was nerves in the build-up, but the minute I got on the ice the nerves were gone, and I was just focusing on doing the job I’d been asked.
“I managed to get on the puck a few times and had a couple of cycles down low with Dingle and Schaber, but it was mainly making sure I was staying in my position, and doing the simple things.
“Todd told me before the game that depending on how it went, he would try to get me out there. Hutchy gave me a little talk beforehand too.
“It’s definitely a night I’ll remember for a long time. It’s just unfortunate it wasn’t the team’s night.”
Despite still being at school - Chad is a sixth year at Auchmuty High in Glenrothes - he is now training full-time with Flyers while continuing his development with SNL side Kirkcaldy Kestrels.
“I’m still with the U20s but most of my hockey just now is focused on the Kestrels - that’s the main stepping stone towards the Flyers,” he said.
“We’ve got quite a young team so we’re sitting third or fourth, but we’re mainly focused on the play-offs and trying to get a push for silverware because we missed out on cups and league.
“We’ve got a good team.”
Chad also has GB commitments with a trip to South Korea for the IIHF Under 18 World Championship coming up in April.
“Last year I got the call-up late due to injury so I was pumped up and focused for that,” he said. “I had a good tournament and showed them I’m ready to play national hockey and that was proved this year when I got picked.
“I’m looking forward to going away again, getting my name out there and showing everybody what I’m capable of.”
Smith is the first junior to make the breakthrough since Fife joined the Elite League six years ago, with other up and coming local players, such as Tyler Plews and Jordan Marr, opting to pursue EIHL careers at other clubs.
Smith, however, has not intention of following them out the Fife exit door, and is prepared to wait for his chances with his home club.
“The way things are going just now I can’t see why I won’t stay here,” he said.
“Todd and Hutchy have really given me a chance to develop as a player, and get some Elite League experience under my belt.
“I think they are planning on keeping me here, so I’ll just keep trying to show them what I can do, and try and develop to get into the first team.
“Before I just wasn’t ready for it, and I knew that myself, but they’ve given me the opportunity to show what I can do in training it’s paying off.
“A lot of people left a bit prematurely when, if they had done what I done, they could easily have been playing for Flyers now.
“It’s just that patience - you need to know when you’re ready and when you’re not ready.
“A lot of young people get frustrated because they want to be part of the team and playing, but there’s a time and place, and you need to be ready when it comes.”
Smith has hockey in his blood - his father Dave, the current coach of Kirkcaldy Kestrels - was a household name in the BNL era, plying his trade with Fife and Guildford among others.
“I always looked up to him when I was younger,” Chad said. “He was always the best and I wanted to be like him.
“He’s always been the example to follow and even now I’m older, I’m still taking advice form him and he helps a lot. The minute I was able to walk there was a stick in my hand – there wasn’t much of a choice – and I took a liking to it, so here we are.”
Smith now has a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps and make a successful career as a pro player.
“Last year I made the decision to go for it,” he said. “Todd said you can either make ice hockey a hobby and go out at the weekends, or you can nail down, not go out as much, and focus on gym, hockey and getting better.
“It made me realise I don’t want it to be a hobby, I want to play pro so I’ve cut down on going out, and seeing my mates as much.
“It comes down to going the gym and getting a bit bigger. I’m obviously not a tall guy so I need to be able to handle myself and not get bullied off the puck, and show everyone that height isn’t everything.”