By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter! @andrewlindrothh
Gregory Campbell was born on December 17th, 1983, in London, Ontario, Canada. He began playing juniors as a very young 15-year-old forward in the ON-Jr. B League for the Aylmer Aces (ON-Jr. B) from 1998-1999, and for the St. Thomas Stars from 1999-2000. The 6’0, 188-pound forward joined the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) as a 17-year-old in 2000 and was drafted by the Plymouth Whalers (OHL) in the sixth-round of the OHL draft. He suited up for the Plymouth Whalers (OHL) for two seasons and combined for 19 goals and 67 points in 130 games.
He was acquired by the Kitchener Rangers (OHL) during his final year in juniors and finished the 2002-2003 season as a point-per-game player, scoring 23 goals and 56 points with 116 PIM in 55 appearances. He led his team to contend for the Memorial Cup in 2003 and contributed seven points in four games. Campbell’s trophy case quickly became full as he was also awarded the Ed Chynoweth Trophy as the tournament’s leading scorer and the George Parsons Trophy for the most sportsmanlike player.
Following an impressive three-year stint in the highly-competitive OHL, contributing two points in six games during the World Junior Cup and finishing the tournament as a silver-medalist, Campbell entered the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Campbell went on to be selected in the third round (67th overall) by the Florida Panthers. After being drafted, the hard-working grinder was assigned to the American Hockey League (AHL) and suited up for Florida’s affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage (AHL), from 2003-2005.
During his two-season development with San Antonio Rampage (AHL), he became an incredibly serviceable bottom-six forward and was often utilized on the penalty-kill unit. He combined for 15 goals and 57 points with a whopping 186 PIM in 146 games for San Antonio. He was also called up for his first pair of National Hockey League appearances with Florida during the 2003-2004 season but failed to register a point. During the 2005-2006 season, Campbell was acquired by the Rochester Americans (AHL) and played in just 11 games before his services were requested by the Florida Panthers.
From there, the forward never looked back and instantly solidified his position in the line-up, eventually finishing his first official NHL season with three goals and nine points in 64 games. Campbell went on to play for a total of seven seasons for Florida, collecting 29 goals and 85 points with 312 PIM in 363 games. His departure from the team occurred on June 22nd, 2010, when he was traded to the Boston Bruins along with Nathan Horton in change for Denis Wideman, a first-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Campbell became the premier fourth-line center for the Bruins for the next five years and had the best season of his career during his first year as a Bruin in 2010-2011. The Bruins were evidently one of the better teams, especially during the second half of the season, and Campbell ended up finishing with 13 goals and 29 points with a plus-11 rating and 93 PIM in 80 games. During the 2011 playoffs, he would go on to center what would be known as the “Merlot Line” with Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille as his wingers. Campbell and the rest of the “Merlot Line” helped lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup victory after a grueling seven-game series against the Vancouver Canucks.
Unfortunately, the Bruins failed to maintain the title the following year after a first-round exit loss to the Washington Capitals. After the player lock-out in the first half of the 2012-2013 season, the Stanley Cup champion attempted to help restore that same success during the 2013 playoffs. Although he sustained an injury that immediately took him out of the series, it carved his legacy as a Bruin player forever.
On June 5th, 2013, during Game three of the Eastern Conference Finals, Campbell played on the top penalty-kill unit and sacrificed his body to take a slapshot from Evgenii Malkin, ultimately breaking his right fibula. There was apparent discomfort, and everyone in TD Garden watching could instantly tell that something was seriously wrong. Still, Campbell managed to stagger to his feet and continued a conscious effort to kill the penalty. As the puck exited the zone, the forward skated on his broken leg to the bench, and the crowd erupted with massive chants of, “Campbell! Campbell!”, cementing a memory in Bruins fans’ hearts for many years to come. The Bruins went on to win the game in double-overtime, eventually sending the team to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Bruins went on to the Stanley Cup Finals but eventually were defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks, and Campbell did not return for the remainder of the playoffs after breaking his leg. Along with the blocked-shot of the decade, he also recorded three goals and seven points with a plus-seven rating in 15 games. He continued to suit up the Spoked-B until his contract expired in 2015 and did not reach an agreement with the Bruins, sending him to free agency. During his five-year venture in Boston, Campbell contributed 39-52-91 numbers with a plus-12 rating and 306 PIM in 358 appearances.
On July 1st, 2015, Campbell quickly inked a two-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he was placed on unconditional waivers during his second season with the team. Reports state that he refused to report to Columbus’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate and was released from his contract two days after being placed on waivers. Campbell officially retired on June 9th, 2017. After retiring, he joined the Blue Jackets as a developmental coach.
Throughout his 12-year tenure in the NHL, Campbell recorded 71-116-187 numbers with 696 PIM in 803 games. All of us at Black N’ Gold would like to wish the Stanley Cup champion a happy 37th birthday!