By Rob Del Mundo
Brampton, ON 19 Nov 07 - Nearly a year-and-a-half after retiring from hockey, Cassie Campbell is just as close to the game as she was during her 13-year international career, and just as busy.While into her second year as a rink reporter Hockey Night In Canada, Campbell has released a book, and is also one of the newest members of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.
"I was blown away to be the first woman hockey player inducted," said a smiling Campbell, who was one of three Team Canada Olympic gold medalists honoured on the evening of October 25."To go in with my fellow Olympians Beckie Scott - who I admire - and Daniel Igali, was a really great thing."
The 2007 Canada's Sports Hall of Fame class also included three-time CFL MVP Doug Flutie, nine-time NHL 50-goal scorer Mike Bossy, and three time Major League Baseball batting champion Larry Walker.
Many of Campbell's former teammates were on the Team Canada squad that claimed their fifth title in six years at the Four Nations Cup last week. Their former captain - a two-time Four Nations Cup champion with 7 points in 10 games - kept tabs on the tournament's results through her computer."I watched very closely online, and they were closer games - 4-3 going into third against Sweden, and of course 1-0 with an empty net goal for a 2-0 win over the U.S (in the gold medal game). So the games are getting closer and I think that's really good for the game, and of course I'm cheering for them all the time. "
Campbell's new children's book called "H.E.A.R.T." is now available in bookstores.The biographical piece, aimed primarily at the young adult audience, is filled with the author's real-life experiences throughout her 157-game international career as she reveals her formula for success in life, and in hockey."It's sort of an educational book, but at the same time it's about the national women's program.
"Some of the proceeds go back to the Ladies First Hockey Foundation which is a program that's going to help girls go to the 2010 Olympics and beyond.So it's a really exciting project for me."
"H.E.A.R.T." contains anecdotes that have not been told previously; one story in particular involves Campbell's ejection from a bantam game after she retaliated against an opponent by cross-checking her from behind. Following the banishment, her mother Eunice confiscated her skates, warning her daughter that she would never be allowed to play hockey again if the infraction was ever repeated.
"That story is something people probably wouldn't know about me.But it was a really valuable lesson, and something that we need to make sure is that kids are treating people inside of the sport as well as they are treating people outside of the sport.So, that's just one of the valuable lessons I learned that I wanted to pass on."
"It took me a while to get my skates back and rightfully so," blushed Campbell as she recalled the incident that seems so out of character for her, given her high profile as one of the game's most-respected ambassadors and advocates of fair play."I think it was a good decision by my mom." Campbell credits her parents Eunice and Donald with instilling values of
respect and responsibility, characterizing them as fair disciplinarians.
"I had the wooden spoon a couple of times," she admitted, "but my parents were great.They wanted me to respect people the way I wanted to be respected. They're two of the biggest influences in my life, my parents. I'm pretty fortunate."
On the broadcasting side of her life, the first woman to ever work a game as an analyst in the Hockey Night In Canada booth (earning the nod on October 14, 2006) is not slowing down anytime soon, compiling frequent flyer miles as she travels to various NHL cities with the rest of her CBC crew. Following her CSHOF induction, Campbell covered games in New York and Montreal.Her next assignment takes her to desert country as she travels to Phoenix to cover the Leafs vs. Coyotes game on November 24, two days after her 34th birthday.
Campbell did take time along with her husband Brad Pascall, Team Canada Senior Director of Communications, to attend Monday's Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.As expected, Campbell was not hesitant in campaigning for inclusion of women hockey players into the Hall, and suggested that not only a former teammate, but also a former opponent, be the first two female inductees.
"I think Geraldine Heaney and Cammi Granato are the two front-runners and should be the first two (women) in.Maybe down the road the doors will get opened, with the IIHF opening their doors first, and maybe this (Hockey) Hall of Fame will follow."
With an illustrious resume that includes 17 international gold medals as a hockey player, as well as broadcasting, book-writing, and now a Canada Sports Hall of Fame induction, it's hard not to imagine Campbell being fitted for a Hockey Hall of Fame blazer at some point in the future.
© Rob Del Mundo, 2007