Campbell, recently hired as a sideline reporter for HNIC, was pressed into service as colour analyst for the Calgary-Toronto game when Cole’s regular wingman Harry Neale got snowed in at home in Buffalo.
Campbell found out Saturday morning she would be joining Cole, the veteran play-by-play man, in the broadcast booth. The realization she would be the first woman to do so came later.
“I met with Bob Cole for the first time after we both found out what was happening,” Campbell said Sunday from Toronto. “He said ‘Well girl, we’re going to make history.’
“At the end of the game, I kept thanking him and he said ‘Girl, you did it.”‘
Campbell said she was nervous, but that she felt prepared and that the HNIC crew had confidence in her.
“I definitely had to come out of my comfort zone last night to perform and I did that as a player as well,” she said. “I tried to do the best job I could under the circumstances and I was proud of what I was able to do.”
Campbell and Cole worked smoothly together with Campbell breaking down game tape during stoppages in play.
After retiring in August as captain of the Canadian women’s hockey team, the 32-year-old Campbell from Brampton, Ont., embarked on a broadcast career she’d dabbled in as a player.
Campbell worked her first game as a sideline reporter for HNIC on the opening weekend of the NHL season. Her dream was to one day be an NHL colour analyst, but she was taken aback when producer Sherali Najak invited her into the broadcast booth Saturday.
“I said to him, ‘I didn’t expect it to come on my second day on the job,” she said.
Campbell was thankful Saturday’s game was an eventful 5-4 overtime win for the Leafs, because it gave her a lot to talk about. They are also two teams she knows well because while she is from Ontario, she lives in Calgary.
“I’m not an experienced NHL broadcaster by any means, but I’ve worked on the NHL Network and did some stuff for TSN and the women’s game and worked with (Calgary radio station) The Fan,” she said. “That helped me last night.
“There is definitely a lot going on. The producer is talking in your ear and you are listening to Bob and you are watching the game and you are on Hockey Night in Canada.”
Campbell wondered how her presence would go over with those watching.
“It was such a shock to everyone probably – no Harry Neale,” she said.
Campbell is the only Canadian hockey player, male or female, to captain a national team to two Olympic gold medals, which she did this year in Turin, Italy, and in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
The five-foot-seven, 150-pound forward had 32 goals and 68 assists in 157 career games for the Canadian women’s team before her retirement.
Brenda Irving was the first woman to be part of the HNIC crew in 2001 and has appeared intermittently on the show since then. She was followed by Martine Gaillard, who was an intermission and post-game reporter before she moved to Rogers Sportsnet in 2005.
Former U.S. women’s team captain Cammi Granato has been a sideline reporter for NBC’s NHL games.
“I hope that, with what Cammi has done with NBC, I think between the two of us, I think we both proved that women hockey players know the game and understand the game,” said Campbell.