There he was, all 6’2″ 185 lbs. World Junior Jack, as he is refered to by fellow journalists. World Junior Jack is one of the most decorated amateur hockey players of our generation, having won two gold medals at the U18 Hockey Championships, a gold at the 2009-10 World Juniors in Saskatoon, as well as a bronze at last year’s tournament in Buffalo. In addition to his gold medal at the 2009-10 U 18s he was also named the MVP and Best Goaltender of the tournament. That streak is over with the United States officially playing for the right to remain at the main tournament. They are in the same company as Latvia, Denmark and Switzerland. One of those four teams will not return next year when the tournament is in Russia, with Germany taking their place.
The New Years Eve game ended with a Canadian victory. The final horn sounded, 16 000 fans revelled in a national victory and Rexall Place was as loud as it has ever been. Campbell skated to the bench, and immediately several fellow teammates congregated around him. What they said we will never know, but that scene is symbolic. In a tournament where nothing has gone right for the Americans, Campbell’s role has transcended the traditional goal-saving that goalies are known for. His heroic efforts against both the Czech Republic and Canada, as well as his demeanor and attitude away from the ice, have made him a rallying point for an American team that desperately needs to play for something.
Often times we read quotes of athletes taking responsibility for the actions of their teams, usually after a key loss. We don’t know whether it is a genuine feeling or a product of media lessons from their agents or advisors. But when talking to Jack Campbell after the Canada game, it was quite obvious he meant every word he said.
“I want to take full responsibility for our standings. I expect to be the best every single time I step on the ice and the first two games I simply wasn’t,” he said.
“Starting Jack Campbell tonight was the humane thing to do,” said US Head Coach Dean Blais after the game.
Another thing that Campbell did was admit he was human. Much of the time what we read in the papers are quotes players have given thousands of times and clips that have zero meaning. When asked about playing in front of a raucous crowd, Campbell didn’t hold back.
“These fans are unbelievable, and it really does have an effect on the hockey game. It’s very hard to play in front of that many people,” Campbell admitted.
The Americans fought, and they battled, and they gave Canada its first true test of the tournament. Campbell held the team in the game early on, in spite of giving up 3 goals in the first period. Although the Americans will not be fighting for a medal, what they do have is a rallying point; something Canada may not have at this tournament. Each and every American player will benefit in the long run from this tournament and the adversity it brought. Campbell answered his final question, and the reporters thanked him. He then looked at all of us, considered rats and leeches by many, and said, “No, thank you guys.” The American dream may be over at the 2012 WJHC, but its spirit continues. Jack Campbell embodies it.
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