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CAPTAIN CAMPOLI REFLECTS ON A UNIQUE JUNIOR CAREER

This Saturday afternoon in Moncton, Sea Dogs Captain Michael Campoli will lace up his skates for the final regular season game of his junior career. The overage defenceman from Pointe-Claire, QC joined the Sea Dogs in the summer of 2018 for what became the last stop of four different leagues in his junior career.

The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada had originally drafted Campoli in the 4th round of the 2014 QMJHL Entry Draft; however, he was committed to play in the United States. After two years in the US National Development Program Michael joined Boston College of the NCAA. At Boston College he played alongside future NHLer Colin White of the Ottawa Senators, and Matt Gaudreau, the younger brother of Calgary Flames superstar Johnny Gaudreau.  After a season and a half with the Boston College Eagles he left to join the Penticton Vees of the BCHL for the 2017-18 season. In Penticton he tallied 11 points in 19 games—a career high in junior, but his season was cut short due to injuries. That summer he would come to find out his CHL rights had been traded to Saint John and Michael saw an opportunity to take on a larger role and end his junior career closer to home.

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“It’s been a crazy ride for sure. The last five years were definitely not traditional as far as junior hockey careers go. I moved away as a 16-year-old to Michigan, lived in the US as a Canadian boy—it’s a different journey than most guys take. I ended up playing at Boston College, leaving there to go to British Columbia and then all the way back coast-to-coast to play here in New Brunswick.”

Michael credits his ever-changing career with teaching him some valuable lessons and helping him grow into the young man he is today.

“I’ve taken away so much experience from where I’ve been. I’ve learned a lot of lessons about life and a lot about hockey. I’ve gotten better both on and off the ice and learned how to handle myself and I’ve grown up a lot. I just thank the last five years for honestly turning me into an adult.”

Upon arriving in Saint John, Michael became an instant leader. The experience he brought to the locker room as a 20-year-old who had such a unique journey was invaluable to a young Sea Dogs team. In December of 2018 he was named Sea Dogs Captain.

“It was an honor to be named the captain of the Sea Dogs this year. It’s always special when you get to wear a letter for your team, especially the Captain—it was a great honor.”

Leadership seemed to come effortlessly for Michael even though this was his first time wearing the “C” at any level of hockey. He admits it wasn’t as easy as he first anticipated.

“With a young team there were some challenges, I had to learn how to be a leader to a certain extent, and how to deal with 20 plus other guys in the locker room and how to deal with different emotions and age groups. It was a challenge, but it was a challenge I really appreciated and skills I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.”

Now just two games away from the end of the regular season and the gravity of “your last game” setting in, Michael says it’s not so much the games he’ll remember but his teammates.

“As a player it’s not the games as much as it is the time off the ice you spend with the guys, going to dinner, going to movies, hanging out away from the rink. Those are the times you remember more vividly than maybe individual games. There so many games in a season that sometimes they get lost. Obviously, there are games I’ll always remember like the Val-d’Or game when we finally broke the losing streak, that was a great win but really it was the things we did off the ice and the relationships we forged. That was special to me.”

Campoli took home the Bell Aliant MVP, Sun Life Financial - Brad Stanley Financial Services Top Defenceman Award and Saint John Airport Top Academic Player Award during Monday's Sea Dogs Award Banquet.
Campoli took home the Bell Aliant MVP, Sun Life Financial – Brad Stanley Financial Services Top Defenceman Award and Saint John Airport Top Academic Player Award during Monday’s Sea Dogs Award Banquet.

Campoli will start the entire hockey cycle over again this fall when he becomes a rookie for his first season of University hockey.

“As of now I’m committed to play hockey at McGill back in my hometown of Montreal. I’m looking forward to that and being able to further my education. I’m halfway done my degree right now and education for me is extremely important so I’m excited to finish that and to play hockey at home in front of my friends and family.”

As for how Michael thinks he’ll be remembered for his time in Saint John, he’s sure his unique circumstances will most likely be at the forefront.

“I don’t have any expectations or hopes; it might be funny to look at a rookie being named captain for half a season. It was an unusual thing so I might get remembered just for that.”

Sea Dogs fans are more likely to remember Michael for his leadership, his unwavering positive attitude, his efforts in the community and his ability to always put the team first.

For players entering the QMJHL as rookies next season, whether it be as a 16-year-old or a 20-year-old Michael wanted to share what helped him stay focused over his career.

“Don’t lose track of why you started playing hockey. There’s always going to be times when it gets tough and it might not always be fun to play or you don’t get along with a coach or a certain player, but if you can find a way to make sure you’re having fun and you enjoy going to the rink every day, that’s when you’re going to find the most success. Just go out and play, don’t worry about what other people are saying or thinking – go out and play and have a blast. That way you’ll always play your best, that’s what I’ve learned over the last five years.”

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