During Borden Smith's years as a Clinton Comet, he produced his share of memorable moments.
During eight seasons with the Comets, Smith was a major offensive contributor. He netted 50-plus goals four times and twice topped the 60-goal mark. He finished up with 390 goals in Clinton, which remains a team record today. "Bordie" was that electric.
Like his Comets teammates, Smith echoes comradery as a key ingredient when accessing all the success that surrounded him in Clinton. "We were very close," says Smith of his past teammates. "I've known Billy Bannerman for 50 years. Jack Kane, Orval Tessier, Don Herriman, I played all over."
It's the people who welcomed Smith to Clinton decades back and these are the individuals who remain most important today. When reviewing his many years in and around Clinton, Smith made it a point to mention those who didn't suit up for the Comets. The Alteri family come quick to mind.
After games, Smith recalls being a steady client, eating a lot of hot meals at 7 College Street in Clinton – Alteri's Restaurant & Bar. The Village Tavern and Ford’s Meat Market were additional favorites for Smith and his teammates. Thinking back to steaks he enjoyed from Ford's, Smith treated everyone he encountered as important as the next. He remains thankful.
"It's kind of nice to bring back memories from long ago," tells Smith, who came to the Comets in an eight-player deal that included future Comets coach Pat Kelly and goalie Ed Babiuk. "There were wooden chairs in the place [Clinton Arena], wire [around the boards] and smoke-filled hockey nights."
Smith points out during his time in Clinton, home games saw no glass surrounding dasher boards (only in the ends). Wood sticks were the norm.
"Today, players are bigger and stronger than when I played. They get to work at their game 12 months a year," explains Smith, who collected 119 points in the 1967-68 season.
Smith, along with linemates Kane and Bannerman, were key contributors to the back-to-back Walker Cup championships (1967-1969). During those two seasons, Clinton amassed 101 wins.
Inducted into the Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame in 2000, Smith isn't shy to single out who he considered to be Clinton's greatest rivalries. New Haven Blades, Long Island Ducks and Johnstown Jets are at the top of former left wing's list. Among all the cities of the Eastern Hockey League's circuit, Johnstown remains Smith's favorite.
Dick Roberge, who spent nearly two decades as a player and coach with the Jets, became a good friend of Smith. "I played against him (Roberge) all the time, it seems. Something about their place (Johnstown) made me feel comfortable. I put a lot of points on the board there."
During Smith's first season with the Comets (1965-66), tallying 102 points, he earned a First Team All-Star selection for the EHL's Northern Division. "I played really well. It was a great year for me," said Smith.
As the Comets dominated EHL play, the National Hockey League had but six franchises. 120 players at a time, Smith reflected, that were in the NHL. "You spend more time trying to make the big club (Smith was in the New York Ranger’s organization, playing five seasons for their junior team in Guelph, Ontario) and it gets harder each year. You get older and the guys that were being signed kept getting younger."
Drafted by the Rangers, EHL Rookie of the Year, one of five players in the history of the EHL to score 400 or more goals, multi-Walker Cup champion and successful high school hockey coach at Whitesboro Central Schools, Borden Smith remains all about community in the Mohawk Valley for more than a half-century.
Written by Don Laible