Campbell to share dream win

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

Flash back to March 14.

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin shoves Brian Campbell from behind into the end boards.

A dirty play. Ovie got run from the game, suspended and fined.

Campbell?

The Chicago Blackhawks defenceman was crumpled on the ice in obvious pain. The short-term verdict was broken collarbone, fractured rib and concussion.

The initial threat -- end of season -- is always frightening. Everyone knew the Blackhawks had something special going. Suddenly, all those old boyhood dreams -- playoffs, Stanley Cup, parade, Strathroy, party time -- felt like a million light years away.

"I hadn't really been hurt before in my career, so I didn't know what would happen," said the 31-year-old blue-liner, who had played 388 straight games to that point, including a one-over-perfect 83 the year he was dealt from Buffalo to San Jose

But this isn't in the annals of hockey history -- Campbell returned early. The game is littered with Duncan Keith-like stories of guys picking up their missing teeth or gritting through broken bones to pave the road to glory.

So a month-and-a-half after being Cap-whacked, Campbell jumped back in for Game 4 of Chicago's wild first-round series with Nashville.

"It took a while," he said. "I came back and played but I didn't really feel right again until the San Jose series (in the NHL Western Conference final)."

When Campbell worked his free agent rights two years ago to sign an eight-year $56-million contract with the 'Hawks, a lot of couch cap-ologists believed it to be the anchor that would sink Chicago. The club, then under GM Dale Tallon, was convinced the move would solidify the back end for their best Cup run.

And there was Campbell, the former Petrolia Jet, on the ice till the joyous end, assisting on former London Knight Patrick Kane's overtime Cup winner under Petrolia's own Michael Leighton in the Philly net to liquify the second-longest title drought in hockey history.

"At first, I was thinking I should've shot instead of passing because you're in overtime and you're supposed to just get everything you can at the net," Campbell said, "and when he shot it, I looked up and tried to find the puck in the netting.

"But when you see a guy that talented (as Kane) with his hands in the air, then you figure he knows something and you're feeling pretty sure that it's in."

This situation, Campbell knows well. Back in 1999, when he was the best player in the Canadian Hockey League, his Ottawa teammate Matt Zultek scored the Memorial Cup winner for the 67's, who endured -- you guessed it -- a month layoff before winning the tourney on home ice.

At first, the feeling is redemption. The nay-sayers have been silenced.

All those knocks Campbell took over his 'Hawks' contract?

"It was the best decision I ever made in my life," he said.

Already this summer, Campbell has a ton of memories. Chicago's Cup run produced some unforgettable moments.

Kane's weird winner. Bobby Hull's tears and Jeremy Roenick sobbing on TV. Adam Burish dissing Chris Pronger.

Campbell, though, will always have a personal favourite.

"The parade," he said. "I was blown away by it. There's 2 million people in downtown Chicago. You suddenly realize what it means to end the city's drought. It was always one of the best places to play and they were hungry for a Cup. I'll never forget that."

Friday in Strathroy will be another fun Stanley snapshot.

"I didn't get a lot of sleep this week thinking about it," Campbell said. "When the Cup shows up Friday morning, it's going to be quite a present to have. I'll always come back to Strathroy. That's where mom and dad are and having the Cup in their backyard, it's going to be something."

At noon, he'll be at the Gemini Sportsplex sharing the trophy with the community.

Old Anaheim Duck Andy McDonald, Campbell's former minor hockey teammate, had a public Cup gathering three years ago, too, although there's no longer a Derby Inn to go to afterwards.

Campbell is the first of the Hawks with local ties to get his day with the Cup.

Kane brings the Cup to Buffalo Aug. 13. Fellow ex-Knight David Bolland, a standout after returning from back surgery, gets his mitts on the mug Sept. 3 in Mimico.

STANLEY CUP DAY IN STRATHROY

Featuring: Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Brian Campbell

When: Friday, noon to 3 p.m.

Where: Gemini Sportsplex

Fundraising: T-shirts will be sold in support of the Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital; also a fundraiser for the Strathroy District Minor Hockey Association.


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