Billy Dee Smith, Now a Knighthawk, Prepares for Heritage Cup


Canada's Billy Dee Smith defends USA's Casey Powell during the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship in Syracuse, N.Y.

At the age of 35, Billy Dee Smith’s days of wearing Canada’s colors are drawing to a close, which is why he’s relishing the prospect of wearing the red and white again for the Heritage Cup game against the United States in Hamilton on Oct. 21.

“I’m really looking forward to this,” he said. “It’ll be exciting. I’m glad the USA is bringing a stacked team. Competition will be at the highest level, which is always nice. For me, I’m 35, so it’s probably one of the last times I get to put my country’s jersey on, so it’s a big deal for me. I want to have the best game I can and help the team win.”

The 6-foot-3 defenseman from St. Catharines, Ontario, has a gold medal as a 2006 world field lacrosse champion, a silver medal from the 2010 world field tournament and a gold medal as a 2015 world indoor champion. The Heritage Cup lineup will be drawn from the 2015 roster. The U.S. roster is significantly different than the lineup that won 2015 bronze.

“They’re definitely going to pose some difficulties for us,” Smith said. “They’re shifty and can shoot on the run. As a defense, it’s going to be key to keep them to the outside. They’re best asset is shooting on the run, so we can’t let them in the middle.”

As a left-handed player, Smith will try to contain Tom Schreiber, the American right-hander who won the NLL award for 2017 rookie of the year.

“I’ve faced him a lot,” Smith said. “He’s probably got the best running shot in the NLL. He’s shifty. We have to limit his shots. He likes to come over the top, and anytime a shooter comes over the top, he has all four corners of the net to shoot at. He’s a scary talent.”

The next FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championship is in 2019 in Langley, British Columbia.

“It’d definitely be an honor to be there, but I’m not sure what the future holds for me,” Smith said. “I still think I can be a scary presence out there. I still think I do my job at the highest level. It’d definitely be a goal of mine to keep in shape and play at this level for another two years. Every time you play for your country, you appreciate the opportunity, because you never know if it’s going to happen again.”

Smith was the third overall pick in the 2002 NLL entry draft and spent 15 seasons with Buffalo, including the 2008 championship season. He was the NLL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. In 192 games, he has served a league-record 634 penalty minutes. He was the Bandits’ captain the last two years, but was not re-signed upon become an unrestricted free agent last summer. He signed with the Rochester Knighthawks.

In the Knighthawks’ Sept. 13 news release, Smith spoke about being excited about proving himself again, with the intention of getting into the best shape ever. So how’s that going?

“It’s going good,” he said. “I’ve been working with a trainer. It’s a matter of having my body peak at the right time. Rochester is a new team for me, so I look forward to the challenge of going in and making an impact.”

Signing with Rochester means Smith no longer will play in the NLL with last season’s Bandits teammates Dhane Smith, his cousin, and Steve Priolo, who shared the 2015 world indoor triumph in Syracuse, N.Y., with him.

“Me and Pri are very tight. We always have been. He’s a kid who in his rookie year I said he could be Defensive Player of Year in the NLL,” Smith said. “He’s been up for Defenseman of the Year four times now. That speaks volumes for him as a player.”

Conversely, Smith now will be teammates in Rochester with Canadian national teammates Matt Vinc, Dan Dawson, Paul Dawson and Scott Campbell.

“I spent 15 years in Buffalo, so the only time I got to play with those guys was at worlds,” Smith said. “They did a great job of picking the 2015 team — guys with character, guys who are leaders.”

International rules ban music during play. Smith has no gripes either way.

“When you’re out there competing, you don’t notice it,” he said. “The only time you might notice a distraction with noise is when the other team’s crowd is going crazy. Music or no music, it doesn’t make a difference to me.”

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