BOSTON – Injured Bruins forward Gregory Campbell limped up to the podium, the very picture of Boston Strong.
Campbell has become part of hockey lore since breaking his leg blocking a shot while killing a penalty against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern final—and then finishing his shift. While Campbell downplays his heroics, coach Claude Julien says he epitomizes the blue-collar Bruins.
Campbell, who is on crutches after surgery June 10 to repair a broken right fibula, downplayed all of that when he met the media Tuesday at TD Garden. Asked about the legendary Bobby Baun, he said there was no comparison.
“I don’t put myself in his category,” Campbell said.
Baun scored the overtime winner for Toronto in Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup final against Detroit despite breaking his foot midway through the third period after being hit by a Gordie Howe shot.
“I respect fully that feat of his,” Campbell said. “And mine was nowhere near that,. But it just goes to show you how tough you have to be to play in this league. There’s 700, 800 players that are tough like that and play through things every day.”
But Boston coach Claude Julien says Campbell epitomizes what the Bruins are all about: a blue-collar team that appreciates stars and role players alike.
“That’s how we’ve always been,” he said.
With respect, Campbell refused to be singled out.
“Again, I’m not going to put myself in front of anybody else and say I’m the picture of the Bruins. This Original Six organization has gone back a long way,” said the 29-year-old from London, Ont. “It kind of represents the city, a blue-collar hard-working city with honest people.
“So when I got traded to Boston, I thought it was tailor-made to my game the way this team exemplifies the heart and soul of what a hockey player should be made of. I was proud to come to this team and play hard for this team every night.
“There’s 18 other guys in that room that would do the same thing, and that’s what makes us successful, and makes us a hard team to play against. I’d rather be known for my play other than getting hurt.”
Campbell, who centred the Bruins’ fourth line between Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, said he knew something was up when he managed to get to his feet after blocking the shot.
“I don’t have X-ray vision so I didn’t know at the time that it was broken for sure,” he said.
“It hurt a little bit. It was sore.” he added. “But your adrenalin’s going pretty good at that point. You’re stuck on the ice with a couple of the best players in the world. You really don’t have much time to think about anything else but trying to help out and kill the penalty.”
The Bruins’ work ethic is in high gear in the Stanley Cup final. They lead the Chicago Blackhawks two games to one going into Game 4 Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Like the city that is their home, the Bruins proudly show off their blue collar. And they have done so in the Stanley Cup final two our of the last three years.
The team rewards its player of the game after each win by having them wear an Army Ranger jacket that was given to defenceman Andrew Ference by a group of Rangers after the 2011 Cup win.
Boston’s lunch-bucket attitude stood out in 2011 when they were matched against the aristocratic Canucks. This time, the stylish Blackhawks seems to have more speed and skill. But the Bruins are grinding them down.
“They have a little bit of everything,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said admiringly of the Bruins. “You’ve got to commend them. They’re a well-balanced team. They defend well. And they’ve got some offence as well.”
The Bruins showed how close they are in the aftermath of Campbell’s injury. The feisty forward said the entire team, as well as support staff, texted him every day.
Forward Brad Marchand said the team feels for Campbell and wants to win for him.
“We’re all a family in here and we feel that pain that he’s going through. It makes us want to dig down that much more for him.”
That concern and affection hasn’t stopped his teammates from giving him the gears, however. Campbell says his clothes often draw comment and Thornton was quick to pick on the pants he was wearing Tuesday.
“Thorty said the last time he saw a pair of white jeans was when he got in his last bar fight,” said a laughing Campbell.
Responded Thornton: “You can’t give him a break just because he’s on crutches. We’re still boys here. You don’t get a free pass.”
Campbell, who made US$1.4 million this season, had four goals and nine assists in 48 games during the lockout-shortened season. He hopes to be healthy in time for training camp.