Mackenzie Campbell Closer to NHL Dream

The Stratford Beacon Herald

From one Ontario to another, Mackenzie Campbell is closer to his NHL dream.

Even if he had to move across the continent to get there.

The 23-year-old from Stratford recently started his first season as assistant equipment manager with the
Ontario Reign, the Los Angeles Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate. “It was pretty surreal,” he said. “It’s always something you hope for, and when it finally comes, you can’t believe it.”

Living in Playa del Rey, about 10 minutes from the Pacific Ocean and just south of metro L.A., isn’t something Campbell could have envisioned in 2016 when he agreed to record games for his hometown Warriors. Campbell’s playing days were done, and he got to watch Junior B games for free while earning volunteer hours by moving a camera back and forth. His role expanded when the club needed someone to fill water bottles during practice. Then Campbell learned to sharpen skates and do whatever was asked.

“It snowballed from there,” he said. “This was not my plan originally, but I love it.” He worked with the Warriors until 2019 before taking a job with the Ontario Hockey League’s North Bay
Battalion. “It never seems like work even though days can seem really long and there are no days off,” he said. “You always look forward to going into work, which is something you can’t put a price on.” Campbell applied in June for the Reign’s vacant position and received a call a week later. The video interview went well, he said, but it wasn’t until a networking workshop in Phoenix this summer that Campbell met with club officials in person. They talked and went to dinner, and Ontario offered Campbell the job on his last day in Arizona.

“It’s a new league and higher standards,” he said. “It’s always going up. It’s just learning and taking time to adjust. Campbell’s job involves the usual equipment fixes while also handling truck duties and serving as the visiting teams’ contact. The Reign staff works with its NHL peers every day, he said. The teams share a practice and storage facility, and half of the Kings went to Australia last month for two preseason games. That left Campbell and his new teammates to ride – or fly in a private jet – with the remaining Kings to Anaheim and Las
Vegas. It was during a game at the Honda Centre against the Ducks that Campbell looked around the arena during a TV timeout and realized just how far he’d come. “There’s nowhere to go past there,” he said. “You can’t go higher than that.”

Now, his goal is to get there full-time. Campbell will learn from the likes of Darren Granger, the Kings’ longtime equipment manager who’s also worked with Team Canada’s men’s hockey team at the 2014 and 2022 Olympics. “In this industry, when you get an opportunity you have to take it and run with it and do the best you
can,” he said. “Hockey is a quick world.”

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Cory Smith