Halfway through the second period of Game 3, we witnessed something that could become the signature moment of the Bruins' postseason run.
Down two games to none, Pittsburgh was playing desperate hockey. In the second period with the game tied, 1-1, the Penguins were on the power play after the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice.
It was Gregory Campbell's job to keep the mighty Evgeni Malkin contained at the point. Malkin fired a blast that hit Campbell in the right leg. The Bruins fourth line center looked like he was going down in a heap, but he somehow managed to stay up and play on one leg and with one glove.
Nobody in that building or watching at home could take their eyes off No. 11 in black. He was hunched over, grimacing in pain, but would not succumb to collapsing on the ice or limping to the bench. He looked like an aging fighter staggering and straining to stay on his feet, refusing to hit the canvas and give up the fight. Campbell did his best to stay with his man while fighting the pain searing through his leg. He stood tall for nearly 50 excruciating seconds.
The chants started while he was still on the ice, the loudest chants of the night: "Campbell, Campbell, Campbell."
When the power play was over, Campbell glided on one leg to the bench where he was quickly escorted to the trainers room.
The chants continued. “Campbell, Campbell, Campbell.” It was doubtful that Campbell could hear the chorus from the bowels of the building where he was getting treatment, but his teammates could hear them, loud and clear.
“We tried to rally around him,” said Patrice Bergeron, who scored the game-winner in double overtime. “We tried to do it for him. He’s a big player on and off the ice.”
Campbell's teammates call him “Soupy”. This guy is certainly no Chicken Noodle. I am putting him right up there on the Hearty Beef shelf with emphasis on “heart.”
Playing in pain is part of the job for a professional athlete, especially with so much on the line. We see it all the time in sports like hockey and football.
I just finished Jimmy Connors' book, "The Outsider". Jimbo played top-level tennis well into his late 30s against guys half his age. Connors lost his speed and agility but not his resolve. In the end, the fans loved him because he never quit.
At the end of the book, Connors wrote,
Something still drove me to push even when I was past my prime. I played injured, dehydrated, hallucinating and delusional. It’s not what you accomplish; it’s what you overcome to accomplish it that sets you apart.
The athletes Connors looked up to, he wrote, were the ones who played hurt and made no excuses.
I was lucky enough to be in a generation of guys who gave it their all. I don’t have time for other guys, the half-assed athletes who coast along with their eyes on nothing but a paycheck. I respect guys like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretzky, Muhammad Ali and Joe Montana, guys who laid it on the line, no excuses.
Gregory Campbell is hardly in the same category as these legendary athletes at least as far as statistics go, but what he did for his team in Game 3 shows that he is cut from the same mold.
When all is said and done, if the Bruins lift the Cup for a second time in three years, Gregory Campbell will be a symbol of what this team is all about.
It will take courage, perseverance and playing through pain.
Just like the Bruins lunch-pail gang from all those years back, don’t forget to pack the Soup. Gregory Campbell did.
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