It’s been 13 years since Chris Campoli played in the Ontario Hockey League, but his memories of those unforgettable seasons haven’t faded.
A proud member of the OHL Alumni Association, Campoli recently reflected on his time in the league, a four-year tenure with the Erie Otters from 2000-04 that saw him set records and lay the foundation for an eventual 12-year pro career that included seven seasons in the NHL.
“As an OHL alumnus, I’m proud of my roots and where I’ve come from,” he noted at June’s OHL Alumni Association Charity Golf Classic. “It’s always fun to get everybody together and re-connect with former teammates and opponents that you haven’t seen in a long time.”
Campoli, who now works with the NHLPA as a divisional player representative alongside other OHL grads in Rob Zepp (Plymouth Whalers, 1998-2001) and Steve Webb (Windsor/Peterborough, 1992-95), says his time in the OHL equipped him with the work ethic that carried him to success at the pro level and beyond.
“It’s exciting and I’m learning everyday,” he said of the job. “A lot changes once you’re done playing, but if you focus on it and work at it and bring that same work ethic that you brought as a young junior hockey player, you can be successful at whatever you put your mind to.”
Campoli’s time in Erie included an OHL championship in 2002 on a team that also included household names from Otters franchise history including Brad Boyes, Cory Pecker and Carlo Colaiacovo. Fast forward 15 years and the Otters have done it again, a journey that Campoli enjoyed keeping tabs on.
“It was great to see,” he said. “The fans in Erie deserve it. It’s a great town and they really get behind the Otters. The Memorial Cup was a heartbreaker, but to see them win another OHL championship is something that I and a lot of the other guys from the 2002 really enjoyed seeing.”
Up until this past season, Campoli held a number of different records for Otters defencemen including his 66-point (20-46–66) campaign in 2003-04. That mark was surpassed by Darren Raddysh‘s 81-point (16-65–81) season that helped him earn OHL Defenceman of the Year honours. Raddysh also became the Otters new all-time leading point producer among defencemen when he surpassed Campoli’s career total of 150 on January 25th. Raddysh finished his five-year OHL career with a total of 184 points (41-143–184) before being signed by the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in June.
In addition to his noted presence on the ice, Campoli was a model citizen in the community during his time in Erie. The Mississauga, Ont. native earned both OHL and CHL Humanitarian of the Year honours in 2004.
After a 440-game NHL career that included 35 goals, 111 assists and 146 points, Campoli spent parts of five seasons in Europe, playing in both Switzerland and Sweden before announcing his retirement at the conclusion of the 2015-16 campaign.
Now that it’s behind him, Campoli is able to appreciate the adversity he overcame throughout his playing career, challenges that contributed to the person and professional that he is today.
“I look back at my career, I had ups and downs, but I grew and I continued to get better and slowly, as you learn and gain more experience, you take those things with you and you become a better person and player on and off the ice.
“That laid the foundation for me as a professional and helped me move my career forward and gave me that opportunity so I’m forever thankful for all of it at every level that I had the privilege of playing.”
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