|Sens defenceman Chris Campoli smiles as he watches one of the youngsters at the Ottawa Senators Hockey Camps, which have become a summer fixture at the Bell Sensplex (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).
Chris Campoli couldn't help grinning as he watched the youngsters huffing and puffing their way across the ice.
No scoreboards to watch, no fans or team management to please, at least on this late-August day. Rather, just the pure essence of the game and what brings joy to so many hockey rinks across the country.
The way this Senators defenceman sees it, that's what the game should be all about at such a tender age.
"I just want them to have fun. That's mainly it," Campoli said after a guest stint at the annual Ottawa Senators Hockey Camps, now a staple of every summer at the Bell Sensplex. "I had a lot of fun with (hockey) growing up. I was really fortunate and I'm fortunate to be in the position that I'm in right now.
"If there's anything I could preach to them, it's have fun with it. If it gets to a point in their lives, when they get a little bit older, that they can get something back from the game — whether it's schooling or to make it a job someday — it's a special thing and it's something that doesn't happen very often."
The appearance of players such as Campoli is part of the attraction of these camps at the Sensplex. Every week, a Senators player lends a guiding hand with some guest instruction, which adds a unique touch to the proceedings. It's also a way of bringing the team a little closer to the youngsters who see them as hockey heroes.
"I think it's just great to be out in the community and giving back," Campoli said about the importance of such visits. "The kids are the future of the game and they look up to us as pros. It's a chance for them to get to know us in more of an intimate way.
"You just have fun with them. Sometimes as a player, when you're out with the kids, you remember things from your own youth. It's an all-around good thing."
It's exactly the way Campoli looks back upon his own early hockey days.
"I just remember having fun with it," he said. "The relationship you build with your teammates when you're kids, having sleepovers, playing mini-sticks ... I was given every chance by my parents to enjoy the game and those are my best memories of it."Ex-Islanders coach joins Binghamton staff
The Senators have filled out their American Hockey League coaching staff, naming Steve Stirling as an assistant to new Binghamton head coach Kurt Kleinendorst. The 60-year-old Stirling inked a two-year deal with the organization.
Stirling, who has extensive experience behind AHL benches, is also a former New York Islanders head coach, guiding them to 56 wins in 124 games and a playoff berth in 2003-04. He returns to the AHL after coaching the Iserlohn Roosters of the German elite hockey league in 2008-09.
The B-Sens open their season Oct. 8 at home against the Adirondack Phantoms. For the complete Binghamton schedule, click here