By Christine Troyke
Gwinnett Daily Post
DULUTH, Ga. – Jeff Campbell is a known offensive threat. But he can also dish out an impressive hit.
He’s not the biggest guy on the ice at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. But the Gwinnett Gladiators’ winger is exceedingly strong on his skates and doesn’t shy away from the rougher aspects of hockey.
Campbell has handed out a number of bone-jarring hits this season, including an open-ice annihilation of Florida’s Brad Zancanaro last week. The fourth-year pro was actually called for interference on the play, but a review of the tape showed a clean, if brutal, collision.
The ECHL Sportsman of the Year honor, which Campbell was awarded Saturday, isn’t clearly defined by the league. It can’t just be the player with the fewest penalty minutes -Campbell’s 38 are pretty low, but not even the lowest on his team.
So it must mean something else.
Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle summed it up well.
“It shows a lot of respect for the way he plays,” Pyle said. “He plays hard every night. He doesn’t shy off of any hits. He goes to the net. He does everything he has to do.
“But he’s disciplined. I’d say that would be, probably, one of the best words for him. He’s disciplined, in all phases of the game. It’s one of the keys to success.”
Campbell, who is second in the league in points scored this season, is the second Gladiator to be the ECHL’s Sportsman of the Year. In 2003-04, Gwinnett’s Kris Goodjohn was selected.
Campbell beat out the league’s top scorer, Cincinnati rookie David Desharnais, for the award. It was the Ontario native’s second honor in as many days. On Friday, Campbell was named First Team All-ECHL.
In 64 games with the Gladiators this season, the 26-year-old collected a career-high 90 points and is a plus-17. He’s also an unquestioned leader of this playoff-bound team and the 2005-06 ECHL MVP has been a constant in the Gladiators’ ever-changing lineup this year.
“He shows how hockey is supposed to be played,” said linemate Brad Schell, who has played with Campbell for the last four seasons.
“He’s not chippy and he’s not dirty, he just goes out there and plays hard. He throws hits, but by no means does he throw dirty hits.
“He competes every night, working hard, and I think a lot of the guys on this team look up to him. He leads by example.”