The late 1890s and early 1900s were great years for hockey in the Ottawa area, in large part because of one hockey-playing family, the Smiths. The Smith family consisted of seven brothers, enough to form a full all-star team in the early days of the sport, when an extra player - the rover - patrolled the ice.
And it would have been a formidable team. Three of the brothers had successful professional careers and several others established reputations as talented amateurs. Alf Smith was the oldest and perhaps the best known of the skating clan, though younger brother Tommy had a better scoring touch and played longer in the burgeoning era of professional hockey. Both were eventually inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for their outstanding play.
Alf Smith began playing competitive hockey in his teens, starring with the Ottawa Electrics in the city league before moving up to the Ottawa Capitals, still an amateur team, in 1892. He played his first professional hockey at the turn of the century, skating for most of one season with Pittsburgh in the International Hockey League.
After taking a break from the game, Smith played with the Ottawa Hockey Club of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League and helped build the team into the powerhouse that became known as the "Silver Seven."' In 1903 he captained the team to the first of three successive Stanley Cup victories. The Silver Seven played in what was considered the first professional hockey league in Canada. Smith played on a line with Frank McGee, making room for his talented teammate with his bruising style. Later his brother Harry took up a position on his line and the siblings had great success.
In 1906 Alf led a group of players in starting a second Ottawa team that played in the Federal Amateur Hockey League as the Senators. When the Senators were defeated in the 1907 playoffs by the Montreal Wanderers, Smith and teammate Harry "Rat" Westwick joined the Kenora Thistles, the team that had defeated the Silver Seven for the Stanley Cup the year before. The Thistles also lost to the eventual champion Wanderers and Smith returned to Ottawa. Continuing to play for the Senators, Smith also coached, capturing the inaugural Allan Cup with the Ottawa Cliffsides in 1908. The following year he moved south one more time and played a season for the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. He then retired as a player and turned his attention full-time to coaching.
Smith's coaching experience included the Renfrew Millionaires, a celebrated squad that featured some of the game's greatest early stars, and the Ottawa Senators in the newly formed National Hockey League. He was also the first coach of the New York Americans when the team joined the NHL in 1926.
Alf Smith stayed in hockey for most of his life, coaching and managing teams in Moncton, New Brunswick, and North Bay, Ontario. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on June 6, 1962, nine years after his death in 1953 at the age of 80.