For many Canadian hockey fans, their initial exposure to Cassie Campbell came on the cover of Elm Street Magazine in 1997. Shortly afterwards, the cover of Chatelaine and an appearance in the documentary The Game of Her Life would follow as she prepared for the 1998 Nagano Winter Games. Fast forward to 2013 and the thought of hockey’s girl next door turning 40 is surprising.
It only seemed like yesterday that Campbell was an integral component of the Canadian national women’s hockey team. A nation of fans watched her career grow as she became the first captain to lead a Canadian team to consecutive gold medals at the Winter Games. It would be part of a body of work that included a staggering 21 medals, including 17 which were gold.
Although her career eventually reached its twilight, her contribution to the game did not. From broadcasting to instructing to charitable work, she never stopped in her efforts to help the game grow. Part of those efforts also includes a position with the CWHL Board of Directors. At the hub of key growth for professional women’s hockey in Canada, Campbell’s acumen is essential for the budding league.
While she tearfully retired many seasons ago, a nation felt equally sad. Campbell was more than just an athlete but a builder for female sport in Canada. Always conducting herself with grace and dignity, she never let her celebrity status get in the way of interacting with fans. Even though she no longer graces the ice as a competitor, Campbell is a pleasant memory of the game’s rebirth in the 1990’s. Of note, a new generation of young girls looks up to her as a hockey hero and a role model.
Having spent so many years giving to hockey and inspiring young women, there has been no shortage of those who have given back to her. From getting the opportunity to be part of the Vancouver Winter Games Torch Relay to earning an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Ottawa, the awards and honors that have been bestowed on her have been well earned.
Campbell turning 40 symbolizes how much the game of women’s hockey has grown and developed, her presence is testament to the sport’s relevance. Before the decade expires, other hockey heroes like Jayna Hefford, Caroline Ouellette and Hayley Wickenheiser shall also reach the magical number of 40. Having played alongside Campbell, their milestone birthdays will help fans to reflect on more than just the game’s growth, but celebrate the heroes who have helped to establish it. Here is hoping for another forty wonderful years.