Brian Campbell

Why Brian Campbell knew it was time to retire from NHL

Why Brian Campbell knew it was time to retire from NHL

Brian Campbell had barely sat down at his retirement presser when his eyes started to water. It wouldn’t take long for the tears to come, even though he told teammates he wouldn’t cry. After 17 seasons, this was really it.

Campbell met with the media on Tuesday, one day after he announced his retirement from the NHL. While he’s leaving the Blackhawks as a player he’s joining them in the front office, as special advisor in business and hockey relations. With his family — wife Lauren, daughters Harper and Everley and parents Ed and Lorna— in attendance, an emotional Campbell talked about leaving the game.

“I didn’t solicit any offers. I talked to some teams. I just didn’t think it was fair, if I wasn’t going to play, to do that to anyone and just try to start negotiating with teams,” Campbell said. “I’ve been thinking about [retirement] for a while. At the end of the season, I didn’t know if I was ready to do it anymore. So that was only fair. But I will say July 1 was tough, a tough day. There’ve been some tough days. But I think we’re happy with our decision.”

Blackhawks president John McDonough said Campbell called him about six weeks ago and mentioned he was contemplating retirement. The two talked of the possibility of Campbell staying with the Blackhawks in some capacity.

“I wanted to give him the requisite amount of time because it’s a tough decision. Seventeen years, four-time All-Star ... and the timing had to be right. He kept talking to me about the importance of his family and didn’t want to leave Chicago, so I tossed it back and I said once you are firm on your decision, give me a call. When he called me back, I said the door is wide open.”

Leaving the game is bittersweet. Campbell wasn’t going to be returning to the Blackhawks as a player; the team told him they were moving in a different direction on defense, and he appreciated the Blackhawks letting him know with plenty of time. Campbell gets to stay in Chicago and with the Blackhawks front office. But saying goodbye to his playing days was nevertheless difficult.

“I don’t think I’d want to retire any other way but a Blackhawk. It was fun. I had a blast. There were a lot of nights after games, I was with my buddies. That was the best part of all of that,” Campbell said. “It wasn’t fun pulling off the jersey [in April], that’s for sure. These are just thoughts I’ve had for a while now. I feel like this is the time for me to step away.”

Calling it a career: Brian Campbell retires, joins Blackhawks front office

Calling it a career: Brian Campbell retires, joins Blackhawks front office

When Brian Campbell returned to the Blackhawks last summer he made it clear that he wanted to stay and raise his family in Chicago. Campbell’s playing days are officially over, but his time with the Blackhawks is not.  

Campbell announced his retirement on the Steve Cochran Show on WGN Radio 720 on Monday morning, adding that he’ll join the business side of the Blackhawks. The team said Campbell will be working with the Blackhawks “in the marketing community and [with] youth hockey initiatives.”

The veteran defenseman had two stints with the Blackhawks. He was part of the 2010 Stanley Cup team before he was traded to the Florida Panthers in the summer of 2011. Campbell signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks last July.

The 38-year-old Campbell said the decision to retire was a bittersweet one.

“The first time you say it out loud, it hurts, but I’m excited,” Campbell said of his upcoming off-ice work with the Blackhawks. “I know I could play physically. Mentally I’m done with it a little bit. It’s a grind. I played 18 years now of pro hockey, I’m tired and a little done with that. I have two little girls… I’m going to be putting them in the forefront a little more. That’s what I looked at.

“I’m excited to stay with the Blackhawks, that’s the No. 1 thing I wanted to do,” Campbell continued. “I’m going in to work on the business side. I want to learn and grow with it. I’ll work my way up in that organization. There’s a lot of good people, so I’m excited for that opportunity.”

Returning to Chicago was key for Campbell last summer. It’s where he and his family call home. To stay here with the Blackhawks in an off-ice capacity is the perfect finale for him.

“That’s why I came back, that’s why I want to be part of the organization. Leadership has been good to me,” Campbell said. “I’ve worked hard and that’s what I want to do is continue to grow, the fans to get more excited. It’s just fitting. for me. It worked out perfectly.”

Patrick Sharp will do whatever it takes to win another Stanley Cup in return to Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp will do whatever it takes to win another Stanley Cup in return to Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp was finishing up his opening statement when he broached the obvious subject: what to expect in his second tour of duty with the Blackhawks?

“I want to make it clear that I’m coming back home to contribute to the Blackhawks in whatever role it may be,” he said.

Sharp departed the Blackhawks two summers ago a three-time Stanley Cup champion, a top-six forward who played a big role in the team’s success. Now he’s back with Chicago, although with time passing comes changes. Sharp is now 35 and coming off one of his toughest seasons, especially with injuries. He’s recovering, very well and on schedule, from a hip surgery in March. He probably won’t be the top-six guy this time around. But to get another chance at a Cup with a group he knows very well, Sharp is willing to play whatever role necessary.

Sharp talked to the media on Saturday afternoon, not long after signing his one-year deal worth $1 million with the Blackhawks. It’s the latest in the Blackhawks’ attempts to rekindle magic with former players. For the most part, this has not worked out well. But for general manager Stan Bowman, the familiarity of Sharp, coupled with the forward’s ability to mentor to young players and fill a role on a team needing depth, was a convincing combination.

“We expect him to bring a lot of speed to the table. He knows how to put the puck in the net. That’s something some players just have a knack of getting open and getting the shot off. As far as the intangibles go, stuff away from the ice, there’s no question there’s chemistry there,” Bowman said. “There are younger players here who weren’t here when Patrick was here before, but I think he’s going to help mentor those guys. Patrick has a lot of experience, been through a lot of situations. He can help sort of mentor those younger players and so from that perspective, there’s great comfort level among players and staff.”

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As for that speed and great skating, how much will be affected by Sharp’s hip surgery. Both Sharp and Bowman said he’s progressing just fine and Sharp will be ready for training camp — the surgery had a 4-5-month recovery window. Sharp said he’s, “pushing it pretty hard in the gym, and I’ve been on the ice in full equipment skating. I don’t anticipate any problems going forward.”

“I still have a ton of time to be ready for Day 1 and be ready for training camp,” Sharp continued. “I had got the surgery toward the end of [March] and that provided me with a ton of time… not to just back to the level I was at in March but it also allows me time to build my body back up to where I can play a season. I’ve played a lot of hockey, I know where I have to be physically and mentally to start the season. The time I’ve given myself is plenty.”

So where does Sharp end up in the lineup? As of now, Brandon Saad is penciled in as Jonathan Toews’ left wing. Nick Schmaltz, who played some with Patrick Kane last season, will likely get the first shot on Kane’s wing when the season begins. Sharp finished his 2014-15 postseason playing on the Blackhawks’ third line, and that’s probably where he could start this fall.

Sharp had several options this free agency. Like Brian Campbell last season, he took a lot less money to return to the Blackhawks. Much like his paycheck, his role will be different this time, too. But it’s a familiar place full of familiar faces, and whatever role Sharp takes on in order to win another Cup, he said he’s willing to play it.

“I expect to be 100 percent ready to go from Day 1, to contribute in any role Joel [Quenneville] puts me in and I’ll do the best I can,” Sharp said. “I look back to my time in Chicago, being a part of three different teams, all three times I played in a different spot. Things move around, there’ll be changes and combination, but I’m open and ready for anything.”