Gregory Campbell didn’t ask for the puck to break his right leg in a June 2013 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He said he didn’t have the “X-ray vision” to know it was broken; that he killed a penalty for another 47 seconds before leaving the ice because that’s what any of the Boston Bruins would have done.
While others tried to use his shift as motivation in the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Final – Coach Claude Julien said he epitomized the team’s blue collar aesthetic – Campbell always downplayed the significance of that moment, which received attention well beyond the hockey world. “I’d rather be known for my play other than getting hurt,” he said.
But the fact is that he’s known for getting hurt, for playing hurt and for exemplified the type of dedication and fortitude hockey fans hope their favorite players exude. To that end, Bruins fans have sought to have Campbell autograph photographs showing him in agony during the shift.
And Campbell has declined to sign the majority of them.
DJ Bean of WEEI caught up with Campbell at a captains practice and asked him why the avoidance:
Campbell felt so uneasy about the celebrity that accompanied his injury that he decided this summer to not sign any autographs on the image. Fliers for an autograph signing in Braintree last month even included a message: "Please note: Campbell will not sign any photos related to his injury."
"I did a few, and then I started thinking about it. I don't want to glorify it," Campbell said. "It's over. The play's over, and I want to move on and focus on what's really important -- that's playing. I don't want to make something out of that play and make it into something bigger than it was. It was a blocked shot that happens countless times in a game and series and things like that, so I was just trying to what I had to do to help this team."
Look, Gregory Campbell can choose to sign whatever he wants. (Might we suggest a grilled cheese sandwich?) But seriously, dude, get over yourself.
Yes, it’s a pain the ass when the media constantly bugs you about what they see as exemplary heroism and what you see as “just do’in my job’. It makes you feel like you’re different than the other guys in the room, and that’s not how any hockey player wishes to feel. It makes it hard to see yourself as a name on the roster when others are holding you up as something iconic.
But a fan asking you to sign a photograph of the injury isn’t doing anything but acknowledging how you inspired them.
(Unless they’re a collector for profit or someone with a perverse injury fetish, in which case your hesitancy to sign is accepted. Also feel free to spit in their face.)
It’s not glorifying anything; it’s recognizing that sometimes athletes do things that they view as pedestrian and we view as superhuman, and that’s why we admire them.
Humility is not refusing to sign for a fan. Humility is acknowledging that you impacted their life, and recognizing that the play will define you no matter how fast you skate from it.
Hey, congrats, you're no longer Colin Campbell's son. You’re Willis Reed. You’re Kirk Gibson. You're a playoff hero. Embrace it.