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Smith turns other cheek after scary neck injury

Justin A. Cohn

FORT WAYNE – Ask center Brett Smith about the horrifying hit that he took during the Turner Conference semifinals last spring, and he’ll tell you, “I got the last laugh and that’s all that matters.”

That laugh came thanks to a six-game series win over the Rapid City Rush and then a championship in the CHL.

Smith returned to play in Game 2 of the playoffs and missed only one postseason game because of the bulging disc and whiplash he suffered on a hit by Jeff Kyrzakos.

Smith had three goals and 13 points in 17 playoff games.

“The neck is pretty good now,” Smith said, “though I didn’t get to do a whole lot over the summer with some of the physical stuff.”

Luckily for Smith, 31, who won championships in each of the last two seasons in the CHL, he didn’t need surgery on his neck.

“It was close,” he said. “They thought I was young enough that I could battle through with some therapy. I did have surgery on the elbow, but that’s all taken care of.”

Smith holds no ill will because of the hit, which came from one of his close friends – he and Kyrzakos won a championship together in Bossier-Shreveport in 2011 – and he joked he should have sent his buddy the medical bills.

“I talked to him all summer long,” Smith said. “He didn’t mean to do it. It’s the battle of the game. We joke around a little about it.”

For a player like Smith, who thrives on using his speed to get to loose pucks, and on battling in the corners, he had to try and put the fear of it happening again behind him.

“As far as we know, (my neck injury) was all from that hit,” said Smith, who is from Guelph, Ontario. “I’d never experienced anything like that in the past and I’m just glad it’s gone.

“It was very scary, especially hearing people saying they were surprised I didn’t break my neck the way I went in,” Smith said. “It won’t shy me away from going hard-nosed into the corner again. But I’m sure it will be in the back of my mind here and there.”

Smith has 20 goals and 61 points in 55 regular-season games with the Komets.


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