Swift Current’s Jenna Smith is finally ready to resume her hockey career after injuries derailed her rookie season in Sweden.
After a promising start with HV71 last season, Smith is returning to Sweden to skate for FBK in Karlstad.
Smith, 24, registered nine goals and five assists in 15 games for HV71 last season, her first professional season after a decorated career with the University of Calgary Dinos.
“I kind of went not really knowing exactly what to expect. I didn’t know if it would be a lot the same as here and the CIS. But it was actually a lot different than I expected. The caliber of play was way beyond anything I had played. Just the atmosphere and the culture of the girls over there, and the way the team ran was just so different. It was just such a positive environment. Everyone just worked with each other to be better and pushed each other,” Smith explained.
“It was just realizing that at a professional level that everything is there for you to succeed. There is nothing else going on except for the team and winning and just having everyone there to help them do everything they can to get there, that was different,” she added.
“It went actually really good. I started off the year definitely adjusting to the different style of game. Playing on Olympic ice is a lot different than playing on what we have over here. So that took me a couple games to get used to. The style of play is obviously quite a bit different. But three or four games in I adjusted pretty well and started scoring lots of goals and getting lots of points and was on a roll right up until I got hurt.”
Smith was on a penalty kill when she rushed the puck up ice and was taken heavily into the opposition goal, going foot first into the post. She broke her tibia and fibula in her ankle joint.
Smith stayed in Sweden for almost a month before returning home for the holidays. She was supposed to have the cast off after six weeks but at that time the injury had not healed. She finally got the cast off in mid February and went back to Sweden and skated in three playoff games despite not being healthy yet.
Her recovery has been slowed by nerve and tissue damage and bones that didn’t heal properly.
“It has been really tough mentally,” she admitted of the rehab process. “I took a couple months off after to give my leg a break and things were pretty good, started running again, started training. It would be good for two or three weeks and then it would be more of a mental game because I would wake up one day and wouldn’t be able to walk and just a terrible setback. It has been on and off essentially since.”
Smith has had a few procedures done over the past couple of months that have seemed to have helped and she recently got out of another cast. “Things have been good. I have been cleared to start training and skate and play. That’s nice for the first time in a year.”
Smith said she skated again for the first time on Dec. 17. “It was pretty good. It was good on the leg, obviously not good on the lungs.”
Smith was scheduled to fly back to Sweden on Dec. 29 and her team has its first game on Jan. 8. She expected to start practicing with the team upon her arrival. “We will play it by ear and see how it feels. If it is good and I think I am okay to go I might try it or I might just ease into it slowly and make sure I am good to go for playoffs and such.”
Smith hoped to get up to speed in time for the playoffs, which begin in March.
“Obviously I expect a lot out of myself. But realistically I would just like to get back to or close to where I was. It took me a couple of weeks last year, even when I was healthy, to adjust to the game. So I am sure it is going to take quite a few games to adjust and get back to where I was at, if that’s even possible. I do hold myself at a high standard and I know that my teammates, as much as they don’t expect a lot out of me, they do expect a lot out of me,” she concluded.