For fans that remember the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, it seems like it was only yesterday. It was those games in which a nation of proud hockey fans was introduced to Cassie Campbell. Despite the silver medal outcome, it was a coming out party in which she would mark a permanent place in the hearts and minds of female hockey fans.
While it seems difficult to fathom that November 22, 2013 signifies her fortieth birthday, a generation of hockey fans have seen the still youthful looking Campbell grow up in front of their eyes. The first girl next door in modern day women’s hockey, her likeability and team-first approach has earned her endorsements with McDonald’s Canada, Scotia Bank and Chevrolet’s Safe and Fun Hockey Program.
One of the most memorable endorsements was actually from 1998. Seeing Campbell become the first Canadian female athlete to appear on a box of Wheaties was a landmark moment in women’s sport. Along with Brendan Shanahan, the two were featured on boxes of Maple Frosted Wheaties, appearing on breakfast tables throughout the nation. On Canada Day 1998, Campbell would throw out the first pitch at the Toronto Blue Jays game, testament to her growing status as a national icon.
Even today, Campbell holds a remarkable presence with young fans. The book she co-authored with Lorna Schultz Nicholson, H.E.A.R.T. is required reading for all aspiring players. Of note, the book would make an impact on the girls’ team that her brother Jeff coaches, the North Halton Twisters.
Emma Gormley, a competitor with the Twisters was so inspired by the book that she donated her birthday money to the Ladies First Hockey Foundation. Of note, Gormley had the chance to meet her idol at the Chevrolet Hockey Camp. It is a remarkable legacy of Campbell’s influence on the game.
Having accumulated 21 medals with the Canadian national women’s team (of which an astounding 17 are golden), her greatest legacy may be the fact that she is the only Canadian captain, male or female, to lead Team Canada to consecutive golds at the Winter Games. Accomplishing this remarkable feat at the 2002 and 2006 Winter Games, it solidified her legacy as one of the greatest leaders in hockey history.
A role model in every sense, she is every bit as integral to the game today as she was a generation ago. Although she sports shorter hair today and has tackled the role of motherhood, one of her biggest contributions to the game has come through the broadcast booth.
Along with Brenda Irving and Martine Gaillard, the three would help shatter barriers on Hockey Night in Canada, as women occupy a permanent role on the iconic broadcast today. Campbell would even become the first female broadcaster on the NHL Network.
In 2012, Campbell would create more history while strengthening an already sterling legacy. As the first female recipient of the Order of Hockey in Canada, it was a celebration of everything she has given to the game. While her hockey journey shall inevitable lead to the Hockey Hall of Fame and the IIHF Hall, there is no question that even at 40 years young; Campbell still has a lot left to give to the game. While her fans hope for another fantastic forty years, they are also wishing her all the best on a milestone birthday.
Photo credit: Brian Bahr, Getty Images