TRURO – Shayne Campbell appreciates the game of hockey more now than ever before.
That's because the 20-year-old goaltender for the Truro Bearcats faced the harsh reality of having the game stripped away from him for a period of time that was far too long for his liking.
Playing in an early-season game for the major junior Ottawa 67s last year, Campbell suffered a hip injury that required season-ending surgery.
Hobbling around on crutches for 10 weeks following his operation, and the ensuing rehabilitation of the injury, put things in perspective for Campbell and gave him a whole new outlook on the game he grew up to love as a young boy in Cambridge, Ont.
"It was definitely frustrating because it was so early in the season and you want to help the team win, but at the same time, it kind of made me realize how quickly the game can be taken away from you," said Campbell. "If there was any positives from it, it kind of made me realize not to take the game for granted because just like that it can be gone."
With a new outlook on the game, Campbell wanted to make the most of his final season of junior hockey. He had an offer to return to 67s training camp this season and had drawn interest from other OHL teams.
Then there were the Shawn Evans-coached Bearcats – a Tier 2 junior team that was loading up to host the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian championship with their sights firmly set on earning a berth at the Royal Bank Cup national tournament.
It was simply an offer that was too good to refuse.
"It was definitely one of the selling points to come out here," said Campbell. "Your goal in your final year of junior is to play in a national event like that, and after I talked with a few (people) down here I found out Shawn's a great coach and the organization is one of the best in the league, so those were definitely all selling points in coming out here."
Campbell, six-foot-two, 190 pounds, came to the Bearcats just as advertised and was brilliant in the regular season. In 37 games, he posted a 22-7-7 record, 2.39 goals against average and .915 save percentage. On Wednesday he was named to the Maritime Junior Hockey League's all-star team.
"I just like his demeanour as a goalie," said Evans. "He's big in the net, he's quiet and he's sound. Sometimes you play as a team based on your goaltender and that happened a lot, and he gives us a quiet confidence and there's never any reason to panic."
Another endearing quality about Campbell, said Evans, is his character and the way he treats others.
"For whatever he does as a hockey player, he's a better person. You get your ultimate respect on how you play on the ice, but when you can back it up with the personality and the character he has, that's a pretty good package."
Campbell will be called upon to play a key role for the Bearcats during the post-season, which begins tonight when Truro hosts Pictou County for Game 1 in their Eastlink Division semifinal series (Community Credit Union Arena, 7 p.m.).
After spending four seasons in the OHL with Sarnia and Ottawa, primarily as a backup, Campbell said he is thrilled with the opportunity to backstop the Bearcats in their quest for a championship during a season that has been everything he had hoped for.
"Things have been more than perfect here," he said. "I didn't have any doubts coming out here in the summer and I couldn't have asked for a better year and a better group of guys to be with and better organization."
Name: Shayne Campbell
Hometown: Cambridge, Ont.
Award: Named MHL first-team all-star.
Education: Studying sociology at Dalhousie Agricultural College in Bible Hill.
Future plans: Canadian university hockey.
Fast fact: Campbell attended rookie camp with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011.
Family matters: Shayne's dad Bruce is from Glace Bay and he has an uncle who lives in Antigonish.
Did you know?: Campbell's trademark celebration following shootout wins this season is called the bonesaw and was inspired by a former Ottawa teammate who did the same following fights.