For an athlete, getting traded always presents a number of challenges. You have to pack up and relocate to a new city, usually on short notice and sometimes on the other side of the country. Like everything else, though, it’s a process that has been made even harder by the coronavirus pandemic.
Jack Campbell was traded from the Los Angeles Kings to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 5, a few weeks before the deadline. Barely a month later, he was on his way back to L.A. after the NHL season was put on hold indefinitely. Despite a whirlwind first few weeks in Toronto, he’s loved being a part of his new team so far.
“I’ll always be grateful for L.A. and the opportunities they gave me to establish myself in the league,” he told reporters in a conference call Thursday, “but I mean, getting traded to Toronto, it’s the hockey mecca of the world. What a fantastic organization, top to bottom; the fans, the management and, number one, my teammates. I just really enjoyed getting to know everybody.”
The sudden stop in the season has made things harder, of course, but he’s looking forward to being back with his new teammates as soon as possible.
“[It’s a] little disappointing, we had some momentum going and I was starting to really get to know the boys and gel, but obviously there are bigger things going on right now,” he said. “I’m confident that when it resumes we’ll just keep putting our best foot forward. I’m just really enjoying my time as a Leaf.”
He even acknowledged feeling a little bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) when he saw fellow Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen throwing alley-oops to Auston Matthews on Instagram. Andersen is staying with Matthews during the quarantine after being unable to return home to Denmark.
“I love those guys,” he said. “They’re awesome. We’ve been texting once a week or so, just staying in the loop, and it looks like they’re having a good time. Those two guys are pretty similar, they love spending time outside playing sports.”
Campbell, who went 3-2-1 in six starts for the Leafs, has been in quarantine at his L.A. apartment since the season was paused about six weeks ago. The netminder is known for his positive attitude — and it should be no surprise that he’s still trying to get better even without being able to get on the ice.
“I just think for me it gave me a chance to work on some weaknesses I have in my game,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a pretty scary time for the world and the health of everybody is number one, but with that being said, it does give somebody like myself a chance to work on stuff. For me, it was my flexibility. I took the time over the last six weeks to really hammer home a bunch of stretching and I feel like, hopefully, I’ll come back an even better goalie.”
With the NHL reportedly edging closer to announcing a return date, the 28-year-old is growing increasingly eager to lace up the skates and pile on the pads once again.
“I can’t stop smiling at the thought of, when it’s the right time for everybody to come back, how exciting it’ll be to get in the net and stop some pucks,” he said.
One thing is for sure: No matter how much longer it is before hockey returns, Jack Campbell will keep the same positivity that he always has.
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