Deciding when to hang up the skates or cleats is one of the most difficult decisions an athlete can make, and it was no different for Brian Campbell, who officially ended a 17-year NHL career Monday.
Campbell went back and forth wrestling with the decision. His wife told him to take more time. So did his dad.
Campbell by the numbers
In announcing his retirement after 17 NHL seasons, 38-year-old defensemen Brian Campbell also announced he would be joing the Blackhawks’ front office. Here’s a look back on his career.
NHL career: He played 17 seasons with four teams (Blackhawks, Buffalo, Florida and San Jose).
Career points: 504 points (87 goals, 417 assists) in 1,082 games.
Blackhawks career: 4 seasons (2008-2011 and 2016-17), with 24 goals, 110 assists in 295 games.
Highlight: Had the assist on Patrick Kane’s series-clinching goal to win the 2010 Stanley Cup.
Notable: Campbell had a 423-game playing streak (March 23, 2011 to Dec. 29, 2016).
Honors: NHL all-star in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012; won the Lady Bing Trophy (Most Sportsmanlike) with Florida in 2012.
Source: Chicago Blackhawks
In the end, Campbell knew in his gut what the right decision was.
“I never came around to where I really had the drive to do it,” Campbell told WGN (720-AM) radio host Steve Cochran on Monday morning.
So Campbell, a sixth-round draft pick by Buffalo in 1997, ends his career having played in 1,082 games and as a Stanley Cup champion, winning his only title in 2010 in his first go-round with the Hawks. The 38-year-old defenseman now moves into the Hawks’ business operations department to assist with marketing, community relations and youth hockey initiatives.
“Obviously I’ve got to thank Rocky Wirtz and John (McDonough) and Jay Blunk for this opportunity,” Campbell said. “They’ve been so good to me.
“That’s the reason why I came back last year; that’s the reason I want to be a part of the organization is the leadership from the top has been just so good to me. And I feel like in return I’ve worked hard and been good to the organization.”
Campbell believes he could have physically played, but two things held him back.
“It’s a grind. I’ve played 18 years now of pro hockey and it’s kind of a grind,” Campbell said. “Mentally I’m a little tired and a little done with that.
“And then family. I’ve got two little girls (4 and 2) … and it’s going to be putting them in the forefront a little bit more.”
Campbell played with the Sabres from 1999 until late in the 2007-08 season when he was shipped to San Jose at the trade deadline. That summer, Campbell signed an eight-year, $58.6 million contract with the Blackhawks.
He scored 19 goals and dished out 96 assists in three seasons with the Hawks and helped the franchise capture its first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years when they defeated Philadelphia in 2010.
In one of many salary-cap moves, the Hawks traded Campbell to Florida after the 2010-11 season. Campbell never missed a game with the Panthers, but the franchise only made two postseason appearances and never advanced out of the first round.
Last season, Campbell agreed to a one-year deal that paid him $2.25 million to return to the Hawks. The signing was a huge coup for GM Stan Bowman, and although Campbell acquitted himself well during the regular season, the veteran had a difficult time keeping up with the speedy Predators in the playoffs.
Now he moves onto the next chapter — one in which he is genuinely excited to begin.
“The only thing I want to see is for it (the organization) to continue to grow and fans to get more excited and the team to win more Stanley Cups,” Campbell said.
Campbell, a four-time all-star, closes out his career with 87 goals and 417 assists. His best statistical season came in 2007-08 when he finished with 8 goals and 54 assists.
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