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Broncos-era hockey star remembered fondly | News

One of the greatest players to ever wear a hockey jersey in Penticton, he is fondly remembered not only as a great hockey player, but also as a fun-loving friend, an overall outstanding athlete and a proud Pentictonian.

Chad Campbell, who passed away in the last week of June, will be remembered by his family, friends, fans and loved ones on Wednesday, July 17, in the East Ballroom of the Penticton Lakeside Resort.

Campbell was a former British Columbia Junior Hockey League top scorer who was a key member of the 1972-73 league champion Penticton Broncos.

He earned a full scholarship to the University of Denver, where his scoring prowess continued and he was drafted by the Houston Aeros of the former World Hockey Association.

Bob Nicholson, former president of Hockey Canada and general manager of the Edmonton Oilers, was one of Campbell’s best friends and former teammate on the Broncos.

They became friends at a young age, played hockey together for years, and maintained a close and enduring friendship throughout their adult lives.
“We met during junior hockey and played together for a few years,” he said.

“We won the state championship our Midget year and then played three years together with the Broncos. Chad and I go back a long way and have remained great friends.

“I would come back to Penticton every summer and we would always meet up, play some golf, tell old stories.”

A major reunion of the champion Broncos squad took place in Penticton last November.

“Nobody enjoyed it more than Chad,” Nicholson said. “He wasn’t feeling very well at the time, but he didn’t know what it was, but he was in a great mood.

“Pretty much the entire cast came back for the reunion and it was great. Chad was right in the middle of all that intrigue, so we were all lucky to be able to have that reunion last November.”

Nicholson said Campbell was an exceptionally talented player who had offensive abilities that were unrivaled in the BCJHL during his time there.

“He was a great offensive player,” he said. “He could shoot the puck, but his best offensive skill was his speed. He had elite skating speed that separated him from all the other guys playing against him at the time.”

Nicholson said Campbell and teammate Bruce Affleck were offered full hockey scholarships to the University of Denver after the 1973 season and accepted the offer.

“He continued to put up numbers and had a good career in Denver,” he said. “He didn’t make it to the pros, but the Houston Aeros of the WHA drafted him and offered him a ride to camp and he went, but I think he just picked up the golf clubs.”

Campbell and Nicholson were in their prime during the golden age of the Philadelphia Flyers, also known as the Broad Street Bullies, and shorter players like themselves were not given much of a chance to succeed at the highest levels of North American professional hockey.

Nicholson said things would be very different if Campbell played in today’s modern game.

“His style with his incredible speed would really fit into today’s game,” he said. “He wasn’t very big, but he could fly and shoot the puck, and that’s the type of player you look for in today’s game.”

Nicholson said Campbell was a star off the ice as well as on it.

“Chad was always in the thick of things. He was just a great teammate and kids loved playing with him because he was a great player and always had a burning desire to win.”

Campbell’s athletic success extends far beyond hockey, Nicholson said.

“He was an outstanding squash player, a great golfer and a talented tennis player,” she said. “When it came to sports, he was talented and skilled and he played to win.”

Nicholson expects a large gathering of family members, former teammates, friends and acquaintances to formally bid Campbell farewell next Wednesday.

“We had such a great time together and kept in touch until the last few days,” he said.

Nicholson and several of his Oilers players sent him a video tribute just before his passing.

“There are a lot of comments in the video about how great No. 97 (Connor McDavid) was with the Oilers, but don’t forget about No. 17 and how great Chad Campbell was at the time,” Nicholson said. “His daughter showed him the video and he was smiling. Those were the last words I ever said to Chad.”

Okanagan Hockey School President Andy Oakes said Campbell and Nicholson were both involved in OHS’s first year of operation in 1963 and it was clear both would excel in hockey.

Campbell and Nicholson played in the annual OHS Summer Golf tournament and have consistently supported the school for the past several decades.

OHS founder Larry Lund said Campbell was not only one of the best players Penticton has ever produced, but he was also a great man and a strong supporter of hockey at all levels in this community for decades.

Campbell taught at OHS for five years and in Phoenix for two years.

“Chad was a great instructor and always so good with the kids,” he said.
Penticton Vees Junior Hockey recently announced that the team’s Top Scorer Award will be renamed the Chad Campbell Award in honour of the Penticton Bronco alumni.

Campbell was the BCJHL’s top scorer in his final season with the Broncos, tallying 123 points, including 53 goals, in 62 regular season games during the 1972–73 season.

That season Penticton defeated Chilliwack in seven games in the BCJHL finals.

Campbell and the Broncos won the Doyle Cup, the BC/Alberta championship, in five games against the Calgary Canucks. The Broncos lost the Abbott Cup, the Western Canadian championship, in a memorable seven-game series against Portage la Prairie.

Campbell played four seasons at the University of Denver from 1974-1977, scoring 136 points in 143 games in his career.

The anniversary celebration of Campbell’s death will take place on July 17 from 12:30-14:30.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Okanagan Hockey Community Foundation, 201-853 Eckhart Avenue West, Penticton.