Parker Smyth had a year of junior hockey eligibility remaining, but he had other ideas.
He decided to move on with his life, joining the RDC Kings.
“I was looking to turn the page in my life and I knew I was going to go to school after junior and I got to the point where I realized there was more to life than just hockey,” he said. “Obviously I love playing and fortunately I was able to come here to a great school.”
The 20-year-old native of Red Deer came up through the Red Deer Minor Hockey Association and played two years of junior A with the Spruce Grove Saints, Grande Prairie Storm and Battlefords North Stars.
“I had a great time playing junior and moving around had nothing to do with my decision to move on,” said the six-foot-two, 200-pound winger. “I was looking to come home and spend some time with my family and go to school.”
The fact the Kings moved into the new Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre this season helped solidify his decision.
“It’s a great facility … that definitely helps for sure. Having a new facility, especially in my home town was too good to pass up.”
Smyth was drafted in the second round, 44th overall, in the 2013 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft by the Saskatoon Blades. He played preseason games with the Blades and one game in the 2013-14 regular season.
He was traded to the Vancouver Giants the following season and played one game with the Giants. That was the end of his WHL career.
“I enjoyed that part,” he said. “Of course once I played there I couldn’t get a scholarship to an American school.”
Parker had hoped to follow in the footsteps of his father Kevin and uncle Ryan and play in the NHL.
“That was my dream, but it didn’t work out. But everything happens for a reason.”
Parker made the decision to attend RDC late in the summer and contacted Kings head coach Trevor Keeper, who was glad to accept him into the program.
“He wanted to return home and asked if I had room for him and we definitely did,” explained Keeper. “I must admit I didn’t see much of him in junior because he was in Grande Prairie and Battlefords, but he fit right in. He’s improving every week. He’s a skilled, big player with some offensive gifts.
“He’s very coachable and we’re just working on playing without the puck … tracking the puck and getting it back.
“He’s earned the right to be in our lineup. He has a great shot and is a good student. It’s nice to have local guys who help our program.”
Smyth has the experience, and talent, to play at the college level, but admits it’s a big step up.
“I find it’s more of a man’s game,” he said. “There’s older guys, more experienced guys with a faster pace. The guys overall think the game better with less mistakes.”
But he feels it suits his style.
“Being a bigger guy it does. I’m really enjoying it … I’m glad I made the switch.”
Parker has played eight games with a goal and one assist.
“I see myself as a power forward. I feel my strength is my shot, but I’m still learning. I’m getting the hang of it. Adapting my game from junior into a man’s game.”
Parker is taking business and will get his degree in four years.
“Then I plan on going to law school,” he concluded.
The Kings, 8-2-1-1, sit in second place in the ACAC one point back of Grant MacEwan, 9-2-1-0. The Kings host last-place Briercrest, 2-10-0-0, in a doubleheader tonight at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m.
“We felt at the beginning of the year we had a good group and could accomplish something special this year,” said Smyth. “We’re looking to finish the first half in first place.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org