Once upon a time in Ottawa, in the Glebe, there was a boy who raced to the rink on Saturday mornings at 5:30am. You can't get a rooster up that early these days. And he immersed himself in a world that smelled of hot chocolate and cough drops and the sweat and the leather of hockey...Brian's world. In the game. Where make no mistake, winning was important. But all you really had to do to win - was play. And win he did. But Brian's win was our win. Shining moments were to be shared by all. And it is that measure of the man that has brought us here today to celebrate his life. It is the person that Brian was, that has helped to lift our heavy hearts. It cannot happen here, we wept. And with the courage inspired by our friend we said no, we will not let our town become like that. And, we won't. For if we did we would forget what Brian Smith meant to us. And we won't.
I didn't know him as a little kid, but I grew to see the determined little kid in him, and now I see in determined little kids everywhere kids who are going to make it work. And the other night on that ball field, when that little boy's foot hit homeplate with a snap like a firecracker in his eyes, with the skyrockets of the series, and when that arm shot up, I saw my friend. I'll see him forever in the faces of children who are in the game because to Brian that was so important.
You know he loved this city. Loved his sports, our sports. He fought like a tiger to bring the Senators here, to bring Triple A here. But this gentleman, this gentle man had so firmly rooted in the small rinks, the ballfields where sometimes no one watches heart pumping breakaways or those singles that stretch into doubles. Brian could never understand how we could surrender the stands to the echoes of our children; he could not understand why when they looked to the bleachers for a reassuring nod, no one was there. Well, not really no one. Brian was there. He paid so much attention to our children. Cheered them on and a myriad of times I've heard those tiny voices among us yell "Smitty, Smitty". And he had the time for them all. An encouraging word...."you'll do better if you hold the stick like this", "watch his eyes when he's getting ready to deliver the ball". And Brian would listen; he was curious about how they felt. He wanted to know what they had to say in a world where so many are complaining, that no is listening, that it is us and them. And the media is them. We will all have to find a way to deal with those who feel that they are voiceless and perhaps we can begin when they are children. Smitty understood that tomorrow belongs to the children. That we hold their world in trust. And he tried so hard to get us to pay attention.
You know in television, ratings are so important, but I know Smitty would have been happy to see his slide if it meant moms and dads were using the dying daylight to do a little one on one with the kid. Or a neighbour walked away from Newsline to be a big brother, a big sister, take a kid to a game because he knew kids need that. Brian will live on in all of us if we remember that. If we go to arenas, we will find him there in the eyes of children. And as we cheer them on, we will see him in ourselves. Today, we each have so many memories. Six of you here today who once raised a curly-headed boy champion from the Glebe aloft will bear a man champion on your shoulders for one final time and he will be a champion forever in a game that goes on forever. If we could all only listen to what Smitty had to say.
Max Keeping - August 1995