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Video: Hockey shot twins won’t get $50,000 prize

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TODAY contributor
updated 9/1/2011 8:53:18 AM ET 2011-09-01T12:53:18

Can you put a price on telling the truth?

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For a hockey family in Minnesota, the cost turned out to be $50,000. After 11-year-old Nate Smith made an incredible, $50,000-winning shot in a hockey contest, his dad, Pat, admitted that his twins had made a switcheroo: Nick was supposed to take the ice.

Video: Hockey shot twins won’t get $50,000 prize (on this page)

They won't get the prize money, said the company that insured the event on Wednesday, but Thursday on TODAY Pat Smith said teaching his twin sons the right thing to do was priceless.

“I think they learned that honesty is always the best policy, and you can never go wrong telling the truth,’’ Pat told TODAY in an exclusive live interview.

On Aug. 11, Nick Smith won a $10 raffle between periods at a charity ice hockey game at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minn. Whoever made the 90-foot shot with a three-inch puck into a 3 1/2 -inch opening would get the $50K. Nick was outside the arena when the winner was called, so his father told his 11-year-old twin brother, Nate, to step in and take the shot, figuring it was harmless given the miniscule odds of making it.

To the roar of the crowd, Nate, clad in flip flops, drained the 90-footer for his personal “Miracle on Ice,’’ captured in a YouTube clip that has been played endlessly in the Smith home, producing astonishment every time.

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“It felt awesome because everybody was cheering me on and when you came back to sit down everybody is crowding around you,’’ Nate told TODAY’s Natalie Morales on Thursday.

The following day, Pat Smith informed organizers about the clandestine switch. For the past three weeks, the promoter and the insurance company that backed the event wrestled with whether they could award the family the money.

On Wednesday night, the promoter and the insurance company, Odds on Promotions, in Reno, Nev., informed the Smiths that they were not getting the money due to contractual breaches and legal implications.

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Instead, Odds On will split a $40,000 donation between two youth hockey leagues in Minnesota. Half of the money will go to the Faribault Youth Hockey Association, which hosted the charity game in which Nate Smith made the shot, and the other $20,000 will go to the Owatonna Youth Hockey Association in which the Smith brothers participate.

“We greatly respect the eventual honesty of the Smith family," said Mark Gilmartin, President of Odds On Promotions, in a statement. "Although we're unable to the pay the claim on Nate's incredible shot, we are confident our donation will help foster a positive environment for present and future youth hockey in Minnesota."

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The money will go toward skates, sticks and other equipment for underprivileged children.

“I think it was pretty generous of them,’’ Pat Smith said. “They probably wouldn’t have had to pay out anything. We’re happy with their decision and happy that a bunch of young kids are going to benefit from it.’’

“It feels bad (not to win the money), said Nate, "but I’m happy that they at least gave something so all the other kids can still play and get gear they can’t afford.’’

The Smiths could’ve certainly never said a word about the switch and tucked $50,000 into their bank account with no one knowing. Others even urged them to keep quiet, but they feel they did the right thing.

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“Being honest and truthful, it turns out good in the end, and that’s just all you can hope is that they’ve seen how you really do need to tell the truth,’’ Kim Smith, the boys’ mother, told NBC News.

“Some people wouldn’t tell the truth, so it’s cool that we did,’’ Nate Smith said.

Telling the truth also earned the twins scholarships to the prestigious summer camp at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, an elite boarding school that hosts one of the top programs in the nation and has produced multiple NHL players.

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The only question remaining now that the matter has been resolved is whether Nate could ever duplicate his eye-opening feat.

“Probably not,’’ he told Morales, smiling.

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