LACROSSE: Surrey’s Smith finds joy in twilight of career with Stealth

In his 8th year in NLL, Surrey product returned to roster a bit late this season

Cliff Smith (right) of the Vancouver Stealth fights a Saskatchewan Rush foe during a recent National Lacrosse League game.

Cliff Smith’s return to the Vancouver Stealth roster for another year was a bit delayed, but he’s glad to still be in the mix with the National Lacrosse League squad.

Smith, a Surrey native, re-signed with the local pro team on Jan. 25, four games into the current season, his sixth with the franchise.

“It’s going good, but it’s kind of weird jumping in a few games into the season like I did,” Smith told the Now. “That was a little different. I felt in good shape but there’s been some game rust, no matter how fit you are. It’s starting to feel better, and it’s nice being back in the locker room, that’s for sure.”

These days, Smith, 32, juggles life in lacrosse with fatherhood – he has a two-year-old boy and a two-month-old girl – and his pursuit of a career in law enforcement.

Smith remains pointless in six games so far this season, but scoring goals is no longer his primary role – unlike in 2014 when the Stealth moved from Washington to Langley Events Centre and Smith notched 45 points in 18 games that season.

Drafted fourth overall by Colorado in 2009, Smith is in his eighth year in the NLL.

CLICK HERE to see his stats and profile on the Stealth website.

“I’m one of the old guys on the team now,” he said with a laugh. “There are a couple guys who hung around for another year, so I’m not the oldest (on the team), but it’s sort of weird to be the guy you once made fun of, just the jokes. I remember playing with Chris Gill, who’s a Colorado coach now, and we’d never be able to understand, like, ‘What do you mean you don’t have another 15 or 20 minutes to hang out after practice, and you have to go pick up your kids?’ That end of it is kind of funny now, seeing it that way. But it’s good. It’s great my kids can now come to the games.”

Smith, who lives in the Walnut Grove area, loves his short drive to Stealth home games and practices.

“Honestly, I didn’t know if I’d last this long in the league, but luckily a team came to Vancouver,” he admitted. “Depending on the job you have, it’s really difficult to fly out of town for both home and away games, like some guys do, so I was pretty fortunate having a team come here. It’s allowed me to play longer than I thought I would.”

On Sunday evening (March 12), the Stealth went into Denver and defeated the Mammoth 10-6 to earn its fifth win of the season.

Rookie Evan Messenger, a Delta product, tallied an assist in his first NLL game.

“I definitely had some nerves, but I set a few small goals for myself – don’t be so timid, focus on covering the top of the floor and just be a good teammate,” Messenger said after the game.

Next up for the Stealth (5-6) is a home date at the LEC on Friday night (March 17) against Buffalo Bandits. In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, the first 1,000 adults who buy a Trading Post beer at the game will be given a limited-edition glass. For game info, including tickets, call 604-882-8800 or visit Stealthlax.com/single-game-tickets.

tom.zillich@thenownewspaper.com