It’s been a long time since Brian Campbell could roll out of his own bed at his own house, hop in his car, and drive the rink for a home game. But that’s what the Blackhawks defenseman — and full-time Chicago-area resident — did on Wednesday.
“The commute wasn’t that bad today,” he said with a smile. “Didn’t mind it.”
Campbell took a significant discount, signing a one-year, $1.5-million contract, to return to the city he now calls home. And while Wednesday night was his 1,003rd career regular-season game, he still had some first-game jitters.
“Anytime you play the first game of the season, doesn’t matter who you’re with or what, you always have a little bit of butterflies and excitement and some nerves,” he said. “It’s just the nature of the game. But it’s a lot of excitement.”
Campbell, who played alongside Aaron Ekblad in Florida during the top pick’s rookie season, has been paired with 20-year-old rookie Gustav Forsling in camp.
“He’s a good kid, first off,” Campbell said. “He listens, wants to get better. I think he’s a great player — moves the puck well, skates well, makes some great plays in his own end. I treat him like a veteran. He’s got all the tools to do everything and he’s prepared and ready to go. He’s excited and I’m definitely happy for him.”
Last fall, Marian Hossa was fielding questions about his looming 500th goal. This fall, he still is, after a career-low 13 goals left him at 499.
“I never thought I could be one day close to this number,” he said before the game. “That’s great. I know i’m pretty close to 500 so that would be nice to get it over sooner than later.”
While Joel Quenneville said he’d like to see Hossa’s scoring increase, he’s never concerned about the 37-year-old veteran, who still is one of the best defensive forwards in the game. There wasn’t much he needed to tell Hossa during individual player meetings on Monday.
“Just keep going,” Quenneville said. “You keep playing the right way. You send a message to these kids by how you play, particularly without the puck. And the backside pressure and speed through the neutral zone offensively is something you can absorb just by watching. We use a lot of his positioning around the ice and the way he skates to show these kids about playing the right way. Keep being the great pro you’ve always been. We expect a lot of things from him. He had a great World Cup and if he can play at that pace we’ll be happy with that.”
The NHL has been criticized and sued for its refusal to acknowledge and disclose the danger hockey poses in causing head trauma, but the league took a big step toward addressing the concern over concussions on Tuesday by announcing a new concussion protocol. There now will be a team of “spotters” monitoring every game from the Player Safety Room in New York. They will have the authority to have a player removed from a game in order to be evaluated for a possible concussion, taking the decision out of the teams’ hands.
“I think that’s great progression for the league,” Quenneville said. “There’s a heightened awareness to concussions and there’s one more level or layer to make sure the players are safe.”
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock agreed, though he said he hoped he’s “not getting a tap on my shoulder every second shift.”
“I know players that are not in the league now that had concussions that had long-term effects with their concussion,” Hitchcock said. “I’d hate to see that from any player. So anytime we can cut it off early, let’s get it done. It’s a hockey game. I see these guys try to live their lives now, and some of these guys have had very difficult times for years. I’m hoping that by this early detection and this conservative detection that we’re going to be able to really help the players stay healthy and then obviously come back when they’re good and ready.”