Beyond the Whistle: Harry Smith

It’s been quite a hockey season for 2006-born defenceman Harry Smith.  

The summer leading into the 2023-24 campaign, Smith made the move from his home of St. John’s, Newfoundland to Toronto. The move, unlike most of Smith’s life, had nothing to do with hockey, however.  

Smith’s mom, Debbie, originally from Toronto, decided to move back to take care of her parents whose health had been declining. To support his mom and grandparents, Smith joined her. 

“I really wanted to help her out – I felt like she could really benefit from that,” Smith shared of his decision, with hockey a close second thought. “Hockey has always been my entire life and after deciding to move out here, I tried out and luckily landed a spot with the U18 ‘AAA’ Vaughan Kings team.” 

The Vaughan Kings weren’t the only new team Smith found himself joining. Also an on-ice official, Smith added a whistle and a jersey with stripes complete with a Greater Toronto Hockey League patch. 

“The officials are insanely good at what they do – and they’re even better people, too,” Smith said of his biggest takeaway from officiating in the GTHL this past season. “I have had the opportunity to meet countless people here through officiating and everyone has just been incredible. I’ve been given unlimited opportunity to improve and being a part of a new association, I think, has exponentially helped develop my officiating career.”  

After being introduced to playing the game at the age of four by his dad and inspired by his sister, Grace, a former ‘AAA’ player and current student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Smith chose to expand his love for the game with officiating at 14-years-old.  

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been someone who enjoys rules – I understand them really well,” Smith, who started as a timekeeper at 13, explained. “After that year timekeeping, I grew a passion for officiating and wanted to try my hand as an on-ice official. With the help of [Roy Baggs, former Referee in Chief of Paradise Minor Hockey Association in Newfoundland], I got a lot of opportunity and that’s how I got my feet wet.” 

Now an elite-level hockey player, Smith has only continued to embrace both of his roles in the game with one potential challenge: maintaining a schedule.  

“It can definitely be really overwhelming at times,” Smith said of how he manages playing and officiating competitive hockey, adding that most officiating assigners just want to help. “The biggest key for me has been planning out as much as I can and sticking to a tight schedule. It does mean I’m out every evening – either playing or refereeing – but there’s no place I’d rather be than in the rink.”  

Even with the challenge of a busy schedule, the stripes still compliment the player.  

“Every time I referee, I’m skating and developing into a better hockey player as I’m on the ice,” Smith explained. “On top of that, it’s humanized officials for me so no matter the game, you’ll probably see me out there carrying on with the refs and trying to have a great time.”  

“Plus, I understand what’s probably going to be a penalty and what’s not – it helps me maybe bend the rules a little bit,” Smith added with a laugh.

After a season of juggling, it’s all eyes on the TELUS Cup for Smith and the Kings – starting with the Under-18 Central Regional Championship, hosted by the U18 ‘AAA’ Soo Jr. Greyhounds, that began on April 8.  

Harry Smith - Matt Ianetta
U18 Vaughan Kings Head Coach Matt Ianetta (left) with Harry Smith following the Kings’ GTHL championship win.

“Ever since the start of the year, we knew it was a special group,” Smith said of the past season which saw the Kings crowned as 2024 GTHL Champions with a reverse sweep of the Mississauga Senators. “Our coach, Matt Ianetta, has constructed a winning culture right from the start. There is no doubt in the room that we have what it takes to compete for a national championship at the TELUS Cup – ultimately, that has been our goal all season long.”  

“Winning the GTHL championship is an honour and a testament to the calibre of guys in our locker room. I’m beyond lucky to be a part of such a special group – there’s no one else I’d rather be battling with day in and day out,” Smith continued.  

And beyond this season – what’s next?  

“I am planning to play junior hockey to keep developing myself as a player and taking another step closer to hopefully playing college or university hockey,” Smith shared. “In terms of refereeing – it’s a massive part of my life and while I’ll ultimately play as long as I physically can, when that does come to an end, I do have high goals to referee professional hockey someday. I’m confident in myself that I’m going to be able to do everything in my power to make these goals a reality.”

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