How Gemel Smith found out about joining brother, Givani Smith, with Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Free Press

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Gemel Smith woke up from his game-day nap, grabbed his phone and saw a tweet with an octopus.

The next thing he knew he was driving to Detroit, where his brother Givani waited with open arms if not an open door. 

Gemel Smith, who has appeared 88 career NHL games, made his first public appearance with the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, two days after he was claimed off waivers by Wings general manager Steve Yzerman. It was an amazing turn of events for Gemel, who by his own admission ” has loved the team since I was 3 years old. My favorite player was Sergei Fedorov. I had a Fedorov jersey.”

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Gemel was in Rochester, New York, with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, on Wednesday, finally cleared to play after an abdominal injury. After scrolling through all the texts that confirmed his suspicions about the tweet with the octopus, Gemel rushed to change his plans.

“I was getting ready to play my first game I woke up to a bunch of texts,” Smith said. “The first thing I saw was a tweet with the octopus. I didn’t know what that meant and I clicked it and saw it and I didn’t believe it at first.

“So I drove to Rochester, picked up my bag, and drove straight to Detroit.”

Not straight to his brother’s house, though, because Givani joked the two had enough of sharing space when they were little.

“He’s not rooming with me,” Givani said, laughing. “We used to have bunk beds growing up, so I don’t want that anymore. He’s old enough so he can stay on his own.”

Asked who got the top bunk, Givani smiled and pointed at Gemel. 

Gemel, 27, and Givani, 23, said their parents, who live in the metro Toronto area, won’t be able to attend a game at Little Caesars Arena because of pandemic travel restrictions, but “they’re glad we’re here together and can experience this.”

Givani is working on establishing himself as a grinder who provides physicality and energy. Gemel described himself as a playmaker who likes to have the puck on his stick. It was the fact Gemel plays center, a spot where the Wings have lost both Mitchell Stephens and Carter Rowney to injury, that appealed to the Wings.

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“What he’s shown in the NHL is he’ll be a good energy player,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He plays center which gives us depth at that postion. We need guys that are accountable, that can give you energy, that can change momentum without having to need lots of minutes and I think he is a guy who can do that.”

Playing for the Wings isn’t just a great present-day situation for the Smith brothers, but for Gemel, it’s realizing a childhood dream.

“I’m excited,” Gemel said. “It’s a long time coming. Growing up, the Detroit Red Wings have always been my favorite team so to get to be here with him, there’s no better feeling.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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