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Former Blue Jacket Gregory Campbell finds new fit in coaching role

Campbell joined the organization as a development coach to help guide prospects as they work to become NHL players

by Alison Lukan AlisonL /

At this year's Development Camp, there was a new coach on the ice. Former Jackets player and Stanley Cup Champion Gregory Campbell joined the Blue Jackets organization this year as a development coach to help guide the team's prospects through their journeys working to become NHL players.

"(Campbell) is accomplished," development coach Chris Clark said. "He's a type of player that had to work for everything. It's a process to make the NHL and that's a tough road for some guys because they've always been good players where they are. Part of our job is to relate experiences to the guys that the road to the NHL has ups and downs. Understanding that is what Campbell brings."

Campbell, or "Soupy" as he is often referred, was drafted by the Florida Panthers in 2002, and after a final season in the Ontario Hockey League, he split the next three seasons between time with the Panthers and the team's AHL club.

After earning a permanent spot on Florida's roster for four seasons, Campbell was traded to Boston where he played for five years including the 2010-11 campaign when the London native tied a career high in goals (13) and helped his team win the Stanley Cup.

Campbell joined the Blue Jackets in 2015 and played one season before retiring in 2017 with 71 goals and 116 assists in 803 NHL regular season games. Campbell then joined the Jackets development coaching team in the spring.

"First and foremost, it was an opportunity to stay in hockey," Campbell said. "Nothing will ever replace playing but it's still the game that we love and have grown up playing our entire lives. To be able to stay in it, I feel fortunate. I know there's a lot to learn on this side of the game."

The former centerman knows from his career how much work it takes on and off the ice to become a professional hockey player, and it's those lessons he shares with Jackets' prospects. Campbell focuses on everything from preparation to how to take face-offs.

At Development Camp, you could see Campbell huddled with different players after on-ice sessions including 2016 third-overall draft pick, Pierre-Luc Dubois.

"I got the chance to meet him at camp last year," Dubois said. "He was the guy who took me aside and helped me with small things in the game, and I really appreciated it. Then he moved into the development role with the Jackets and I got to talk to him a lot. He's a really nice guy, really funny. He has a lot of experience so whenever I get a chance to talk to him, I learn a lot."

Campbell is learning a lot too. As a player, he focused primarily on taking care of his body, mind and on-ice performance. As a development coach, he's seeing all that goes into the game of hockey away from the ice. He credits the Jackets with exposing him to "the vast other world" of a NHL team.

While it's never easy to leave playing days behind, Campbell says he already considers this next step in his career to be something positive. He is excited to be part of growing the next generation of Jackets players. It was the young talent in the organization that drew him to Columbus in the first place, and Campbell is excited to continue to grow the winning culture.

"For players who have played and had the luxury of playing in the NHL, which is the best league in the world, I feel like it's our duty without a doubt to give back and share our experiences," Campbell said. "That's how you grow the game of hockey. I'm excited about this opportunity. it allows me to help other people with the same dreams and desires I had growing up."

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