The Washington Capitals, who were one of the most injured teams in the NHL during the last several years, yesterday hired Greg Smith from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to be their new trainer.
"We identified him as being the best young trainer in the league," said Capitals General Manager George McPhee, who is trying to shake the team's trademark as an injury-plagued club.
With Smith as the trainer, the Mighty Ducks had only 98 man-games missed because of injury. The Capitals had 511 last season.
Washington fired trainer Stan Wong last month and its orthopedic surgeons resigned after the team failed to reverse the trend of man-games missed over the last several seasons. General managers and coaches consider 200 man-games missed per season a reasonable number.
Smith, 30, said he is looking forward to changing the Capitals' fortunes.
"Hopefully maybe we can change things around, or I can at least try to have input into it," said Smith, who was still on the job with the Mighty Ducks yesterday. "Hopefully we'll be able to turn it around."
McPhee also is expected to name new team physicians in the next few days.
Smith joined the Mighty Ducks the same season (1997-98) Coach Ron Wilson came to the Capitals after being let go by the Mighty Ducks. Smith said he plans to start his new job "as soon as possible" because he and his wife are from the Washington area and are eager to rejoin family.
"It basically boils down to the fact that [in California] I'm 3,000 miles from home," Smith said. "My wife is expecting in November, so it's a natural choice for me. In this business, there's not a lot of opportunity to be at home."
Smith is a native of Bowie and a graduate of Salisbury (Md.) State University. He has a masters degree in athletic training from California University of Pennsylvania.
Smith was an intern trainer with the Capitals during the 1994-95 season. He also served for two years as the head trainer of the Baltimore Bandits of the American Hockey League. Smith also helped the Capitals as an offseason equipment manager for several years.
McPhee said he was impressed with Smith's presence in the locker room, where he is described as a "take-charge sort of guy." The general manager said he was looking for a trainer to "keep us abreast of what's going on," and referred to Smith as "progressive . . . computer literate." While in Anaheim, Smith also began a prescription drug inventory and dispensing system that was later adopted by the entire league.