Jets D-man was ‘a big brother on ice’
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/09/2022 (207 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Morris Lukowich remembers Scott Campbell was like a big brother on the ice.
“He was huge in getting me out of trouble,” said the former NHLer on Tuesday, days after the death of his friend and former teammate. “Being a small guy, a lot of times guys would take really advantage and really take good runs at me. One of the ways I would protect myself was I was OK with cross-checking some of these guys right across the face in order to slow them down. Well, they didn’t take very well to that and Scotty would quite often come in and rescue me where I was definitely in over my head.”
Campbell, 65, died Saturday after an 11-month struggle with cancer.
A swashbuckling 6-3, 205-pound defenceman during his playing days, Campbell was chosen first overall by the Houston Aeros in the 1977 WHA Amateur Draft and ninth overall in the NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues. He joined Aeros after a superb junior career before moving to the Winnipeg Jets and a WHA championship in 1978-79. He then played for the Jets for two seasons after the franchise was absorbed by the NHL.
Chronic asthma forced him to retire from the pro ranks after the 1981-82 season.
“When he came to Houston in his first year, you could never tell you he was a rookie because what he did, what he said and how he handled himself was well beyond his age,” said former teammate Terry Ruskowski by phone from his home in Dallas. “He was smart and he was quick in learning the systems that we had.”
Lukowich, Campbell’s teammate in Houston and Winnipeg, was staggered by the news of Campbell’s death but he also remembered the good times.
“When he came to Houston, he and I were roommates — we shared a two-bedroom apartment — and so we just hung out so much,” said Lukowich from Calgary. “We went to breakfast together, when out after games. Heck, I just have a huge smile on my face just thinking about some of the fun times that we had.
“He was a huge fan of the International House of Pancakes and we would be there all the time. Oh my gosh, he would have these pancakes with whipping cream and strawberries and he’d be piling up the syrup. I would ask him, ‘How is this possibly healthy?’ ”
Jimmy Mann, Winnipeg’s first-round draft choice in 1979, was always grateful for Campbell’s guidance in the early years of his career.
“I was so young — I was 20 years old — and I was trying to figure out how everything would work and Scotty was always there to give you advice,” said Mann from Trois Rivieres, Que. “He sort of took me under his wing. He was a very quiet guy, he wasn’t a rambunctious but he was funny at the same time.
“It didn’t take you long to be close to Scotty. He was a great team guy and you could lean on him and you felt really comfortable at the beginning when you got to know him.”
Ruskowski recalled an encounter with Campbell when Winnipeg played Chicago shortly after the Blackhawks claimed Ruskowski from the Jets in the expansion draft. Ruskowski wacked Campbell with his stick and Campbell responded with a two-hander of his own, but the friends could leave the antagonism on the ice.
“He stopped me after the game — he’s waiting for me — and he goes, ‘What the hell were you doing?’ ” said Ruskowski. “I go, ‘I have no idea but what the hell were you doing?’ We laughed about that for a while but we were just close. Sometimes you can’t explain how two people (bond). But we were just good friends and it was it was always good to be around him because he was smart and he laughed at my stupid jokes.”
Ruskowski, who dubbed the skinny-legged Campbell as ‘Chicken Legs’ while they were teammates in Houston, admired Campbell’s hockey savvy and his ability to see the humour in any situation. Campbell often joked about the Jets decision to protect him and Lukowich but not Ruskowski or Kent Nilsson for the expansion draft in 1979.
“We laughed about it — he goes, ‘You know, they should have kept you,’” said Ruskowski. “I said, ‘You know, Scotty I told you this before but I’m telling you right from the heart, they made the right decision. If I was if I was the general manager, I would’ve kept a young, aggressive, good skating defenceman.’ And, of course, Luke was just a natural goal scorer.”
In the last twenty years Campbell moved to Collingwood, Ont., to coach the Collingwood Blues Junior A hockey team while also working in IT. During this time, he wrote a regular hockey column for the Free Press, developed a prominent social media presence and was a frequent commentator on radio broadcasts.
Campbell is survived by his mother Dianne Campbell-Scobie. He was predeceased by father, Gary, and his younger brother, Brian.
Campbell-Scobie remembered Scott’s love of the game blossomed when he was 12 years old.
“All his life he hated mornings and he had to get up at six o’clock in the morning to take the Toronto Globe and Mail around to customers in order to make money,” said Campbell-Scobie from Guelph, Ont. “We were quite poor. I’m a teacher. So we had the security of that but they weren’t well paid that in those years and my husband was often ill. So we just didn’t have the money. So he got up in the morning and delivered those papers and we managed to scrape enough money for him to have a week at the Bobby Orr-(Mike) Walton Hockey Camp. Well, that was the highlight. If he was interested before, that sealed it.”
Eleven months ago, doctors found a malignant tumor in Campbell’s esophagus. Unfortunately, the stage four-cancer had metastasized to his brain and he endured months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Last week, he decided not to continue treatments.
“There was never a good day, only days that were slightly better,” said Campbell-Scobie. “In spite of all the 11 months of feeling so terrible, he was comfortable in those last hours because he was sedated.”
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Updated on Tuesday, September 6, 2022 9:35 PM CDT: info updated
Updated on Tuesday, September 6, 2022 10:02 PM CDT: typo fixed