Whitehorse’s Reid Campbell didn’t want to let his pro hockey career end with last season.
A pair of injuries bumped him off the roster of two pro teams and hanging up his skates at that point would have left a bad taste in his mouth.
So he decided to give it one last stab.
“I kind of told myself I’d give it one more shot because of the season I had last year, injury wise and stuff like that,” said Campbell. “I told myself, ‘Just give it one more shot and if you make it, good on you. And if you don’t, really start to weigh the option of if I want to keep playing or head back north to work and start a real career.’ But it’s worked out here so far and I’m pretty happy, but the work’s not over.”
After a week of tryouts, Campbell signed with the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old defenceman is pumped about the opportunity, but he knows, even with a contract, he needs to continuously prove himself to stay on the roster.
“I showed up for practice this morning and got called in. They took me off the tryout contract I was on and put me on a real one. So it was pretty exciting news,” said Campbell.
“Minor pro contracts are weird. They are really just day-to-day, week-to-week. You still have to play well, still have to produce, not make mistakes, otherwise they can be ripped up.
“It just means I’m here for now and they liked what they saw at camp.”
Following a highly successful NCAA career, Campbell had a very short-lived stay on South Dakota’s Rapid City Rush in the Central Hockey League last season. He suffered a bad concussion in his first exhibition game with the team.
Once recovered he played for the Mississippi RiverKings in the Southern Professional Hockey League. He played over 40 games with the RiverKings – registering two goals and nine assists – but broke a finger, which required surgery, and missed the end of the season.
Campbell, who was born and raised in Haines Junction and is a Whitehorse Mustangs rep team alumni, worked construction in Dawson City during the summer.
To get back in game shape, he spent three weeks in Wisconsin, where he went to school, training with former teammates and other pro hopefuls.
“I was working up in Dawson City all summer, so I wasn’t able to get ice very much. So I decided to head back down to school cause there were nine guys playing pro that I had played with in the past,” said Campbell. “I went down there for three weeks and worked every day and I was feeling pretty good coming into the camp here … I’m glad I did that or else I definitely would have been behind the eight ball right from the start.”
Campbell is joining the Stingrays after one of the team’s most successful seasons. Last year’s team reached the final of the Kelly Cup – the league’s championship trophy – before losing in Game 7. The Stingrays have won the Cup three times with the most recent in 2009.
Even with the contract signed, there’s no guarantee Campbell will get to play in the Stingray’s season opener this Saturday against the Reading Royals from Reading, Pa.
“There are eight D-men here now and usually they only dress six,” said Campbell. “You don’t really now until Friday or Saturday, during the pre-game skate who’s in the line-up. You work hard in practice during the week and hopefully you get in.”
“I’m definitely excited,” he added. “It’s a cool opportunity, a beautiful place. I mean, it’s 27 degree here right now. You can’t really go wrong there. A bunch of guys are sitting out by the pool right now. It’s pretty nice for sure.”
Following his time with the Whitehorse Mustangs, Campbell played four seasons with the Powell River Kings in the BCHL.
He then spent four years playing for the St. Norbert College Green Knights in Wisconsin, winning three NCAA Division III championships.
Campbell’s younger brother Evan currently plays for the Whitehorse Huskies senior men’s AA hockey club. Evan is an assistant captain and was one of the team’s top offensive players last season.
Reid is not the only Yukon hockey player at the pro level this season.
Whitehorse goalie Ian Perrier signed with the Amals Sportklubb in Sweden this past August.
“This is certainly a dream come true, but it is only the first step,” said Perrier in a recent email to the News. “My contract is only for one year, and the reason for that is our coach, Ken Eddy, wants to give players the opportunity to climb the professional ladder into higher divisions. His mentality is one that will give his players the best chance to improve and further their careers in hockey.”
Whitehorse’s Jordan Lane, who played some pro hockey the last five years, has decided to take a year or so off to go to school, his father has told the News.
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