There was never any doubt for Gregory Campbell. He knew that something was wrong after blocking a shot in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, but he also knew he had a job to do. He had to finish his shift, not only because it was his job, but also because he owed it to his teammates. After all, they would all do the same.
The Bruins forward may not have known it at the time, but he had broken his leg in blocking an Evgeni Malkin slap shot while killing off a penalty. The shot left him temporarily crippled, but Campbell willed himself up and finished the shift. His season is now over, but Campbell remains close to the team, feeding off being around his teammates as they use his sacrifice as motivation.
For the first time since suffering the injury and undergoing the ensuing surgery, Campbell talked about his injury and the fallout on Tuesday afternoon. Sticking with the team-first mantra that has made the Bruins so successful — and has them within two wins of another Stanley Cup — Campbell tried to downplay the situation a bit.
“The way I look at it, it might sound naive of me, but I was just trying to do whatever I could to kill the penalty, to help out,” Campbell said. “At that point I really wasn’t thinking much.”
There was a job to be done, and Campbell was going to make sure he finished it, despite the fact that regular old human beings are supposed to feel unimaginable pain after breaking a bone in their leg.
“The pain aspect, yeah, I mean, it hurt a little bit,” he added. “It was sore. But your adrenaline’s going pretty good at that point. You’re stuck on the ice with a couple of the best players in the world. You really don’t have much time to think about anything else but trying to help out and kill a penalty.”
It’s safe to assume that it’s a little easier to make such a sacrifice when you know there’s a room full of guys who would do the same. The Bruins have proved over the last few years that they have each other’s backs, and they’re willing to sacrifice for each other, with Campbell’s determination and guts just serving as the latest example of that.
“I’m not trying to put myself in front of anybody else and say I’m the picture of the Bruins,” he said. “The Original Six organization, goes back a long way. It kind of represents the city, a blue-collar, hard-working city with honest people.
“When I got traded to Boston, I thought it was tailor-made to my game the way this team exemplifies the heart and soul of what a hockey player should be made of. I was proud to come to this team and play hard for this team every night. There’s 18 other guys in that room that would do the same thing, and that’s what makes us successful, and makes us a hard team to play against.”
That’s just all part of of the team-first mentality that continues to rule the Boston dressing room. Not one player is bigger or more important than the other, at least how it’s perceived among the players and coaches. It’s that sort of mentality that allows a team like the Bruins to play on another level in the playoffs, the same sort of mentality that allows a team to come back from being down 3-1 in a Game 7, and it’s the sort of mentality that has them in position to win their second Cup in three years.
“Well, I think [Campbell] exemplifies a lot of what we’re all about,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said Tuesday. “I’ve said it before. We take pride in being a blue-collar team. We don’t care about calling certain guys superstars on our team. We all want to be on the same level. There’s no doubt there’s great players on our hockey club. We make sure that the role players are just as important as the guys that are more visible to the media and to our fans as far as being the limelight of our hockey club.”
That doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for Campbell to be off the ice, especially with so much at stake right now. However, Campbell is doing all he can to keep the team-first mentality rolling, even if he must find ways to contribute off of the ice, not unlike Nathan Horton did in 2011. While Campbell doesn’t see himself bringing some TD Garden ice water to Chicago for Game 5 or a potential Game 7, he’ll be doing all he can to be a good teammate for the rest of the series.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into getting to this point from everybody,” Campbell said. “It takes really everybody to get to the Stanley Cup Final.
“Along the way you’re needed at some point. I tried to to do the best I could when I had the opportunity. Now I’ll try to kind of replicate what Nathan did, support the team, be there, act like I’m still playing even though I’m not, just try to support them however I can.”