The Griffins are salivating over the idea of veteran defenseman Ed “Soupy” Campbell being in the mix with young Red Wings prospects. Story and photos by Mark Newman
Ed Campbell chose to forego the opportunity to continue playing in his hometown to sign with the Detroit Red Wings this past summer.
Obviously, he was lured by the chance of playing for an organization that has won three Stanley Cups in the past six years. Always a winner, Campbell was more than intrigued by the idea of being a part of a club that settles for nothing less than the best.
You could see it in his eyes during the Red Wings training camp in Traverse City.
“They’re not resting on things that happened in the past,” Campbell says. “It almost seems like they’re hungrier. You can see it in practice.
You can see it in the weight room. They’re always working as hard as they can.” Stanley Cups aside, there might have been something else that influenced Campbell’s decision to sign with the Wings — a factor so subliminal that he may never have realized that it was working its way into his subconscious.
It was the chance to wear the red and white.
Yeah, it might seem a little irrational, but then you’ve never spent your whole life mentally wrestling with the constant suggestion that your very existence was somehow equated to a red and white Campbell’s Soup can.
“People have been calling me Soupy since I was a little kid,” he says.
“I’ve been called that by all my friends and everyone I’ve ever played with.
It’s a pretty common nickname for anyone named Campbell.” If he was a soup, Ed Campbell would probably be minestrone. He has all the right ingredients, from size to skill, but it’s the intangibles that set him apart. Grit, determination and character — all reasons he was the team captain for the Worcester IceCats in the AHL during the past two seasons.
“You want to set a good example and work hard,” he says, explaining the sense of responsibility he felt as captain. “It’s a serious job, but you don’t change yourself just because you have a letter on your jersey. You just try to be the same person you always have been and keep working.” Campbell is definitely no chowderhead. He was considered one of Hockey East’s top two-way defensemen while playing at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Although he left school after his third season to sign with the New York Rangers, he didn’t stop using his noodle.
He knows the safe play is often the smart play. Campbell, who went back to school to earn his degree in political science in hopes of one day becoming a lawyer, knows the rules of the game.
At 6-2, 204 lbs., Campbell may not be the biggest guy on the ice, but “Soupy” has never been afraid to stir things up. In fact, he’s averaged nearly 200 penalty minutes per season over the past three years.
Not so much a tough guy as a guy who plays tough, Campbell was taught to give everything you’ve got — that if you played, you played hard, or you might be better off not playing at all.
“My parents were pretty level-headed,” he recalls. “They taught us to work hard, don’t quit something in the middle, to treat people they way you wanted to be treated. Pretty basic stuff, but stuff that’s not around a lot today.” Campbell, 27, was raised in a competitive atmosphere. His parents were both athletes. His father, James, was captain of the football team at Massachusetts Maritime Academy and his mother, Elinor, was into basketball and figure skating.
They passed their athletic genes on to four sons, all of whom have played hockey.
Bill, 35, played a little in the IHL after attending the University of Michigan on a scholarship. Jim, 29, has played in the NHL for St. Louis , Montreal and Chicago. John, 25, spent the past two seasons playing in the ECHL after attending U. Mass-Lowell.
“We played all sports together all the time,” he says. “We all wanted to
win, so it was very competitive. You’d end up getting hammered, but we still loved each other. We’ve always been close.” Much of the boys’ work ethic was instilled by their father.
“My dad was a salesman — he sold tools, pneumatic systems,” Campbell says. “He worked really hard putting the business together — my mom worked as a secretary under him — and he taught us to work hard too.” Campbell’s father is now retired, but he’s still working. His hours are spent in a shipyard, restoring an old vessel that transported people from Boston to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
“My dad’s in his 60s and he’s still going strong. He says he never wants to stop working because he’s afraid then he’ll start aging. It might be a myth, but he doesn’t want to take that risk.” Campbell started playing defense, in part, because it was the position his oldest brother played. It didn’t hurt that the greatest defenseman of all time once played in Boston either.
“I liked Bobby Orr, naturally,” Campbell says. “Of course he was done playing before I was born, but they show his clips on television night and day in Boston. You see all the Bobby Orr highlights.” He has always been a dyed-in-the-wool Boston sports fan, although the observant fan at the Red Wings training camp might have noticed Campbell in a cotton New York Yankees sweatshirt.
“I’m almost embarrassed to wear it, but a buddy got me tickets to a playoff game and it was freezing and I had to buy something,” he explains.
“The thing is it’s so comfortable that I like to wear it sometimes.” Back in Boston? “No way, not a chance,” he says. “My friends would be all over me!” If there’s one thing that distinguishes Campbell, it’s that he’s the consummate team player. It’s no surprise that he’s always been a popular guy with his teammates.
Of course, it’s helped that he’s never played on a losing team with the exception of his rookie season in Binghamton. Since then, his teams have compiled a record of 295-194-66. “I’ve been fortunate to be on some really strong teams,” he admits.
And now he’s joining an organization that’s built a reputation on winning. If he’s lucky, he would like to get to actually wear Detroit’s red and white in a regular season game. He has yet to see any NHL action.
“I came close last season,” he says. “St. Louis called me up at the beginning of the year. I flew around with the team and practiced with the guys, but I didn’t get to play. It was a lot of fun.” Being a part of a winning organization is always fun. “It makes a world of difference,” Campbell says. “You get up in the morning and you’re just happy to go to the rink.” If there’s one thing that Campbell’s noticed about every winning team of which he’s been a part, it’s that an individual’s success will be largely determined by the success of the whole team.
Team chemistry plays a large role in winning.
“You’ve got to have that,” he says. “You’ve got to have everyone working for each other. You’ve got to have that camaraderie, that togetherness that enables you to go to battle for each other.” Campbell is hungry for another chance. He’s ready to give everything he’s got for the Griffins and the Red Wings organization. He knows there will be pressure, but as the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
He’s ready to dish it out.