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Smouse legacy lives on at Penn State Behrend

| Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 12:26 a.m.
Penn State Behrend recently retired the No. 13 jersey of former hockey player Nolan Smouse, who died in May. Smouse was a Kittanning graduate.

The late Nolan Smouse never failed to leave an impression on the people he met.

“The kid who lived across the hall came up to me,” said Nolan's mother, Sharon. “He said, ‘I got my (hair) braid, just like Nolan.' ”

Something as simple as recreating a hairstyle Smouse wore briefly — as his mom put it, “just because” — was one of the tributes by friends over the past few months.

But one took it step further to honor the former Kittanning hockey standout.

Penn State Behrend staged a memorial hockey game May 25 for Smouse, one of its rising stars who died from injuries suffered in a vehicle accident May 1. He was 20 and a sophomore at Behrend.

The program also retired his jersey number (13).

The game against Robert Morris was played at Mercyhurst Ice Center, where Behrend plays home games. The Lions won 5-4 in overtime.

“Everybody (with the team) was devastated (to lose Smouse),” said former Behrend coach Ed Maras, who now coaches at Gannon. “To have this kind of accident happen to him was a tragedy. It's not fair.”

Sharon Smouse was taken aback by the outpouring of support.

“They could not have done anything more,” she said. “They had flowers for me, and they put his jersey in a shadow box. All of the players for Robert Morris wore 13 on their helmets.”

On the ice, Smouse's impact wasn't apparent at first, but as time went on, it became more evident.

“He really grew as this quiet kid who didn't say much to one of those guys who everyone was waiting for him to say something that was hilarious,” Maras said. “It was always funny when he'd show up with this goofy outfit and his teeth out. He went from a quiet kid to a big part of the team.”

Smouse had lost five of his front teeth in an earlier dirt bike accident.

Because they play for a club team, Behrend players must pay for their equipment. It was a simple phone call regarding Nolan's jersey that sprung the ceremony.

“We said we wanted the jersey, and we'd pay for it,” Sharon said. “Someone called back and said they wanted to retire his number.”

Just about everyone in attendance wore his number.

“(Students) had sold T-shirts. They had his name and number on the back,” Sharon said. “Nolan had a tattoo that said ‘Let it Be' on his chest. That was on every chest (of the T-shirts). It was like a blackout there. I couldn't believe it.”

The tributes even go beyond hockey.

The team's golf outing, held in September, was renamed the Smouse Cup.

“He would have relished it. He loved people, and he loved being around people. He wouldn't have been able to believe it,” Sharon said. “That's the sad part about it. He would have enjoyed it the most.”

Dave Yohe is a freelance writer.

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