Mel Smith is being remembered as the quintessential behind-the-scenes volunteer that no sports teams or organizations can survive without.
The Victoria Grizzlies equipment manager died last week at the age of 72 after a battle with cancer. The B.C. Hockey League club is honouring Smith today with a reception at 2 p.m. at the Juan de Fuca Golf Course clubhouse, which will follow a service at 1 p.m. at Hatley Park.
“Mel was the heart and soul of the team,” said Grizzlies president Lance Black.
“He was a surrogate father to many of the players and a friend and mentor to all. He would make sandwiches for the players to take on the bus for road trips and was often up until 2 a.m. doing the team laundry. He even slept at the arena sometimes.”
Equipment manager is a volunteer position with the Grizzlies.
“We asked of him, and he did,” said Black.
“He did it for love of the community, the players, the team and the sport.”
According to Black, Smith was the team’s equipment manager for five seasons and worked in maintenance at The Q Centre before that.
“Mel made every player feel welcomed and a part of the Grizzlies organization, whether you were an affiliate or a returning player,” said Grizzlies forward Darwin Lakoduk, in a statement.
“He supported and encouraged us as players. He knew all our preferences and superstitions and made sure everything was perfect for us to perform our best. [He] will be deeply missed.”
Graduating two-season Grizzlies forward Ryan Nolan, headed to NCAA Div. 1 Merrimack, concurred: “Mel was the backbone of our team. He was the warmhearted friend you could always have a conversation with, but also worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure the team was prepared every day. Whether it was waking up early to prep the locker room for a morning skate or staying up late at night to finish laundry. He was a role model for the organization.”