Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cassie Campbell

Cassie Campbell is easily one of the most recognizable female hockey players in the world. She is also one of the most decorated.

Campbell is the only Canadian hockey player, male or female, to captain a national team to two Olympic gold medals, winning in 2002 in Salt Lake City and 2006 in Nagano. The team also won an Olympic silver medal in Nagano in 1998.

She has been captain of the national women’s team since 2001. During her tenure with the Canadian team, Campbell captured six world titles and won a total of 21 international tournament medals- 17 gold and 4 silver.

The 5-foot-7, 150-pound player joined the national team in 1994 as a defenceman, but became a forward in 1998. She retires with 32 goals and 68 assists in 157 career games for the national team.

Leadership was always a trademark of Campbell's. After just one world championship she was named as alternate captain with Canada's National Women’s Team from 1997-2001, before taking over the role of captain until her retirement. She was just a natural leader, blessed not only with people skills but the ability to bring out the best in everyone around her.

Campbell shares many of her secrets of success in her book H.E.A.R.T. The book is aimed at a juvenile audience, but can inspire readers of all ages. All her success can be summed up the the acronym H.E.A.R.T., which stands for Hard Work, Experience/Education, Attitude, Responsibility And Respect and Teamwork.

In the book, long time teammate Vicky Sunohara writes a foreword and talks about Campbell's great leadership abilities.

"As a teammate and captain, Cassie taught me that being a great leader and team player is not just about individual skill but about knowing how you can best contribute to the team's success. She did whatever it took to make the team better as a whole, never putting herself first. This is what made her such a great leader and captain.

"She was honest, genuine, and lead the team by example. She had a positive attitude - always giving 100% of herself and encouraged us even if she was having a tough day herself."

She started playing the game at the age of 5, back when there was still very few opportunities for girls to play. A natural athlete who also starred in soccer as well as volleyball and basketball, it was hockey that she loved the most.

She progressed through the ranks, more often than not playing with the boys, before becoming an all star and champion at the University of Guelph. She is always quick to credit her experiences at university for making her the person that she is, teaching her independence and discipline.

It was obvious even back then that she was a special person destined for special things. In her final year at U of G, she was awarded the W.F. Mitchell Award, which is presented to a graduating student who has demonstrated outstanding talent and ability in a sport, as well as exceptional leadership and involvement in athletics.

Yet through all the gold medals at the worlds and the Olympics, and through all the celebrity she has attained as a top Canadian hockey player, she has always remained very modest and grounded.

She wrote the following in her book H.E.A.R.T.:

My hockey career has given me so much to be thankful for, but the most important thing is that it taught me how to push myself every day to become a better player and a better person. Hockey taught me to give back to those around me and to believe in my dreams, even when people told me my dreams were impossible."

It should come as no surprise that Cassie Campbell has found success in each of the many avenues in life she has traveled along. She is a very special person, blessed with incredible vision and determination.

A 1997 sociology and nutrition graduate from the University of Guelph, Campbell currently resides in Calgary with her husband, Brad Pascall, Hockey Canada’s senior director of men's national teams. Since retiring as a player she has been busy on many fronts, including book deals, motivational speech tours and broadcasting jobs, including working for TSN and Hockey Night In Canada. She is also heavily involved in several community/charity events across the country.

She was one of women's hockey's greatest pioneers. Now she continues to grow the game as it's greatest ambassador and role model.

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