Ken Campbell

Ken Campbell, The Hockey News' senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League's Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn't work out.

Islanders shelving Ice Girls a huge step forward

Ken Campbell
New York Islanders Ice Girls . (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Islanders were responsible for introducing a tawdry and unneeded element to the NHL 14 years ago. And, thankfully, they could be on the forefront of ushering the same one out. This is one time when we can only hope the NHL continues to be the copycat league it has always been.

According to SI.com, the Islanders will not be moving their Ice Girls squad to Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the fall, replacing it with a co-ed crew that we can only presume will wear more clothing. The Islanders were a pioneer(?) in the employment of Ice Girls, becoming the first team to use them back in 2001 and spawning copycats around the league. Read more

What’s holding up Stamkos and Kopitar extensions? The ‘R’ word

Ken Campbell
Anze Kopitar  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

If you’re Steve Yzerman, you should have had Steven Stamkos signed to an eight-year contract extension more than a month ago. Same goes for Dean Lombardi and his dealings with Anze Kopitar. It’s simple really. These guys are franchise players. Sign them at the going rate for the maximum number of years and get rid of the distraction.

After all, that’s what Stan Bowman did last summer and he killed two potential headaches with one Aspirin. Faced with a similar situation with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks GM needed exactly eight days to get his two stars signed to identical eight-year deals worth $84 million. Cap hits of $10.5 million per times two represented a bold move, but in reality, the Blackhawks got themselves a deal. Had Toews and Kane played out the final seasons of their contracts and gone on the open market separately, they would have cashed in even more. Read more

How Duncan Keith went from job-dodger to bionic Blackhawk – and Conn Smythe winner

Ken Campbell
Duncan Keith scores the Stanley Cup-winning goal. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It seems ludicrous that there was a time when Duncan Keith refused to get a summer job. After all, it’s pretty clear he’s anything but averse to heavy lifting. But there was a time, right around when Duncan turned 15, that his father, David, thought it might be a good idea for his son to learn the value of a dollar earned.

Impossible, Duncan said. Getting a job would get in the way of training. Training for what, his father asked. Training to be an NHL player was the answer. After all, Duncan had made the proclamation in large letters on a big piece of paper when he was just seven or eight years old, “Duncan Keith will make it to the NHL,” which his parents still have framed at their home in Penticton, B.C.

By the time he was a teenager, Duncan was studying the training methods used by the likes of Jaromir Jagr and Pavel Bure.

“When he told me he had to train, I said, ‘We’ll talk about it when I get home,’ ” David said. “When I got home from work, he was running around the yard with a rope and three tires he was dragging around on the grass.” Read more

Vermette’s stay in Chicago was short but very, very sweet

Antoine Vermette (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

As Antoine Vermette made his way through the mass of humanity in the cramped visitor’s dressing room at Amalie Arena after Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, he was unfailingly polite.

“Sorry for the sweat,” he said as he brushed up against people on his way to the door. “I probably stink, too. But I guess that’s a good thing at this time of the year.”

There were games during the playoffs when Vermette didn’t stink at all. That’s because he was likely wearing expensive cologne under his designer suit while sitting in the press box. Check that. He kind of did stink, which was why he was in the press box wearing the expensive cologne under his designer suit in the first place. Read more

Why is Brandon Saad’s nickname ‘Man-Child’?

Ken Campbell
Brandon Saad (via Columbus Blue Jackets/Twitter)

Long before he was a man-child in the NHL, Brandon Saad was a 15-year-old kid who was terrorizing goalies in youth hockey in Pittsburgh, dreaming of one day playing in the same league as his heroes, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Bob Mainhardt recalls sitting in the Saad family’s kitchen trying to get George Saad’s two sons, George Jr. and Brandon, to commit to playing for his junior team.

Mainhardt remembers George Sr. telling him point blank that if his two sons decided to commit to playing for the Mahoning Valley Phantoms of the North American League, Brandon would be his leading scorer. Mainhardt thought highly of Saad, but he also had a veteran-laden team that was a contender for the national championship.

He admired the father’s chutzpah but didn’t put much faith in the prognostications of a proud hockey dad. After all, Brandon would still be 15 when the season started, and he’d be playing with and against players as old as 20.

“Well, if he had been a gambling man,” Mainhardt said of the senior Saad, “he should have put money on that one. Brandon was the best pro prospect I had ever seen. I had 18 kids from that team get Div. I scholarships, and we made the national semifinals. He was our best player.” Read more

‘Battling’ Ben Bishop took long and winding road to NHL success

Ken Campbell
Brian Bishop (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

When the Montreal Canadiens chased Ben Bishop from the net in the second round of the playoffs, Habs defenseman P.K. Subban couldn’t resist taking a shot at the Tampa Bay Lightning goalie, saying Bishop had been “sitting on a horseshoe” to that point in the series. Subban, of course, meant to imply that said horseshoe was wedged in a certain part of Bishop’s anatomy. Subban is subtle that way.

The implication was Bishop had luck rather than skill to credit for his play in that series. If that’s the case, then perhaps it was a case of karma coming around. Maybe Bishop was finally due for some good luck, because until he joined the Lightning, good fortune wasn’t something in huge supply for him.

By the time Bishop was dealt to Tampa at the trade deadline in 2013, he was a 26-year-old goalie with just 36 NHL appearances and was already in his third organization. His hometown St. Louis Blues had given up on him, trading him for a second-round pick. Then with no room on their depth chart for a goalie who takes up a lot of room in the net, the Ottawa Senators dealt him to Tampa Bay for Cory Conacher and a fourth-rounder, not the kind of bounty that has “future NHL star” written all over it. Read more

Meet the NHL’s burgeoning blueline beast

Ken Campbell
Victor Hedman (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

When Victor Hedman was 17, he was playing in the Swedish League and living in an apartment with his girlfriend in Ornskoldsvik, in northern Sweden, cooking his own meals, paying bills – on time – and doing laundry. Colors didn’t bleed, either. He didn’t think that was a big deal. But then again, Swedes rarely think anything they do is a big deal.

Hedman, like many of his countrymen in the NHL, isn’t terribly impressed with himself. He’s making $4 million a year to play in the best hockey league in the world and doing it very well. Yet there is no air about him. He prefers to allow his performance to do his communicating, and by that standard, he’s starting to scream from the rooftops.

Hedman has become the player the Lightning envisioned when they selected him second overall behind John Tavares in 2009. He has become a punishing shutdown defenseman with an offensive bent. He has an ability to make opponents look ordinary and teammates extraordinary. In short, he has all the makings of becoming one of the best defensemen in the NHL. Read more

Lightning coach Jon Cooper is a man with a plan

Ken Campbell
(Photo by Scott Audette/NHL)

There are no crazy outfits here, no marriage proposals, no millionaire anti-heroes repeating they just showed up so they won’t get fined. The NHL’s media day for the Stanley Cup final is not the exercise in excess and the sublime that is the Super Bowl’s, but you still get the occasional silly question. Jonathan Toews was asked what his second favorite cup is, after the Stanley Cup, of course. He begged off, but we’re thinking “protective” and “Red Solo” had to be high on his list.

It’s the kind of day when the athletes and coaches who are about to embark on one of the most intense and gruelling periods of their careers take time to share their thoughts. It’s also a day when Jon Cooper, the folksy former defense attorney from Prince George, B.C., can add to his growing reputation as the most interesting man in hockey. Sitting alongside GM Steve Yzerman, who was in his full suit and tie, Cooper was wearing flip-flops, shorts and a Lightning-issued golf shirt.

This story traces some of its roots back to 2011-12, when Cooper was coaching the Norfolk Admirals and his team reeled off a 28-game winning streak en route to the Calder Cup. In the words of Ondrej Palat, it was there that “(Cooper) taught me how to play big-boy hockey.” Read more