On January 30, goaltender Jack Campbell watched from the bench as former LA Kings netminder Darcy Kuemper stopped 28 shots on goal to blank the Dallas Stars in a 3-0 victory.
Campbell - the 26-year-old former Dallas Stars first-round pick who played in just one NHL game in six years with that organization - tried to keep his emotions in check throughout the contest, but really deep down, he badly wanted the Kings to pull out the victory. He took part in the game as a backup because he was recalled from the AHL due to an injury to starter Jonathan Quick.
"I can honestly say I've moved past my past and that I'm over it. I've always been so ashamed of not being up here [in the NHL] a lot sooner. I moved past it. Everybody has their own journey. But that being said, when we play them, I want to beat them so bad," the Port Huron, Michigan native said.
"When I was with the team, when Darcy got the shutout in Dallas, that was awesome just to beat them in their building. It was cool to see them, but there's nothing I like more than beating them for sure."
Campbell said he has reconciled the fact that it didn't work out for him in Dallas, where he was picked 11th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft.
Since the Kings acquired him from the Stars in June of 2016, he has made steady progress. He first became a key member of the Ontario Reign, and is now being given a shot as the Kings' backup goalie since Kuemper was traded to the Arizona Coyotes.
Video: LAK@VGK: Campbell absorbs Miller's one-timer
Campbell picked up his first NHL win on February 27 in Las Vegas, stopping 41 of 42 shots on goal as the Kings beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-1. It was his first NHL start since Oct. 20, 2013, when he was still a member of the Dallas Stars.
"I mean this is the opportunity I've always wanted and worked for," Campbell said. "Now that it's here I just have to do everything I can to enjoy it and work as hard as I can to be ready."
According to Campbell, his past issues involved difficulty having fun playing hockey. He said this was because he judged his personal character on if he was successful on the ice, which created pressure with every game.
"All day, every day it was like 'I'm a good person,' obviously I always try to be a genuinely good person and stuff, but I would view myself in the mirror as like if I'm a good or bad person based on if I won or lost," Campbell said.
"I wanted to be here [in the NHL] so bad and I worked so hard to try to put myself in position to be here back when I was younger and it just kind of like, you just have to learn. Like anybody in this room, you can just sense how much they care and how hard they work, but they have that demeanor where it's not life or death. It's like they take it so serious, but at the end of the day you have to be able to look at life for what it is and, for me, it took me a long time to learn how to do that and that's kind of where I was at back then," Campbell siad.
When Campbell got to Los Angeles, Goaltending Coach Bill Ranford and Goaltender Development Coach Dusty Imoo both helped him find joy in hockey again. They explained to him he needed to focus mostly on the present rather than look too far ahead.
"It was more like, 'just enjoy whatever you're doing in the moment. Don't be so focused on results because that's in the future,'" Campbell said. "If you lose a game, don't dwell on it because it's in the past. Just enjoy life and when you do that, good things happen."
Campbell had always seen himself as a hardworking netminder and said he gets his work ethic from his dad, Jack, who runs a family electrical distribution company, and his mom Debbie who took care of him and his sister Casey. But with the Kings, he found out that if he wanted to make it to the next level, he had to go further.
"I saw like the boys who stayed here in the summer and they were just blowing it out of the charts and it opened my whole mind what real, hard work is," Campbell said.
And if they saw him struggling, they would help him out, rather than minding their own business.
"I just remember I was kind of behind on the cardio this summer because it was a new thing for me being here. And I remember I was struggling to finish and they already finished. Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, and Jake Muzzin came back in and made sure I finished so they did it with me," Campbell said. "It's pretty cool so that really showed me hard work."
Last season, Campbell held a 2.52 goal-against average and .914 save percentage with the Ontario Reign, and a 1.70 goal-against average and .934 save percentage in his five playoff games with the Reign. In 26 games this year, he had a 2.83 goal-against average and .912 save percentage. The Kings saw enough progress in him to give him a legit shot as the team's backup the rest of this season with the trade of Kuemper.
"We certainly like what Jack's done since he has come here. But, that shouldn't be the exception. That should be the rule, right?" Coach John Stevens said. "Every player should want to come and work hard and take advantage of the resources around them and be a good listener, be a good student of the game and have a great competitive spirit about them and I think Jack checks all those boxes. Jack's come in, has worked hard, really been a good student of the game. His ears have been wide open, and he has really improved because of it and his performance shows. I think any young player that comes in and wants to get better, that should be the rule."
Video: LAK@ANA: Campbell sticks out a leg to deny Wagner
Campbell understands that even though the team showed faith in him by giving him a chance at the backup role, it doesn't mean his job in Los Angeles is set. He needs to continue on the path he started when he was traded to the Kings, so that he can stick in LA and push forward in his career.
"I slept on it for about eight years. It was a long time, and it has been a long journey, and this is my first real opportunity to be a regular NHL goaltender. That's what I've always believed I could do and worked hard for," Campbell said. "But, you have to play well and be consistent and you have to take care of everything. I know just getting here and getting the opportunity is just the first step. I have to make sure I'm ready to play."