PENSACOLA, FLA.: Just when Kyle Campbell thought his hockey season was done after his York University Lions season concluded, his coach had news that would keep that thinking on ice.
That news has led the Lantz product to head to the Sunshine state to hit the ice with the Pensacola Ice Flyers of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). He said his coach told him there were a few teams in the SPHL who were interested in his services.
After a few days, the Ice Flyers head coach contacted him and asked him to come down to Pensacola, which is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle. He had to figure out some things first with school, and then he got on an airplane for Florida.
The former Cape Breton Screaming Eagle and Quebec Rempart said the league is very underrated. The Ice Flyers, currently are second in the 10-team league with 30 wins in 51 games.
“Professional hockey is definitely a lot faster,” said Campbell in a FaceTime interview with The Weekly Press from Pensacola. “The pace is a lot faster and the hockey is great.”
He said he is still doing what he is known for on the ice—crashing and banging, hitting, and even fighting. In his pro debut, he made a good first impression as he dropped the mits for a some fisticuffs. Many gave him the edge in the fight.
“I had no intentions in dropping the gloves in the first pro game, but someone headlocks ya and takes your helmet off you have to start throwing them,” he said.
Campbell joins a list of East Hants hockey players that have made appearances in the pro ranks, including the late Trevor Ettinger of Kennetcook (drafted by the Edmonton Oilers; played in AHL and ECHL); Bryan Gillis of Lantz (CHL, Evansville); and Cory Urquhart of Lantz (drafted to the NHL by Montreal; played in the AHL, ECHL, CHL with Arizona, and Europe).
He said points have been hard to come by so far in his SPHL play.
“I do like scoring goals, but my role down here is to give the guys energy, throw hits, fight, do all that kind of stuff,” said Campbell. “Being a rookie I do hope to fill my spot in the lineup whenever they need me. Hopefully we can win a championship.”
In his four years with York, Campbell played in a total of 103 regular-season games and tallied 45 points (19 goals, 26 assists), including a career high of 13 points in back-to-back seasons.
Campbell said the contract he has is just for the remainder of this season, so even with players being reassigned from higher levels like the AHL, IHL, and ECHL he will be staying put. He has hired a player agency to help further his hockey career, which includes possibly going to Europe; France; Germany to play. But his main focus right now is to play with Pensacola.
Just to give an idea of what the team is made up of, Campbell explained his line-mate was at an AHL camp; and that New Jersey Devils’ Brian Boyle’s brother, Tim Boyle, is a defenceman with the Ice Flyers. He attended an NHL camp.
Campbell had a message for young hockey players in East Hants no matter the level they are playing.
“Coming through East Hants, not many people get the chance to make it to the pro hockey ranks,” said Campbell. “For the kids out there, if they stick to it and keep the hard work going anything can happen.
“Trust me, when I was coming out of Peewee hockey in East Hants, I didn’t think for one second I would be playing professional hockey in Florida. If you keep up the hard work, eventually your dreams will come true.”