As soon as Gregory Campbell returned, the ribbing started.
The shorts. The tan. The white jeans.
“You can’t give him a break just because he’s on crutches,” Shawn Thornton said. “We’re still boys here. You don’t get a free pass.”
No matter that Campbell had been away from the Bruins for almost two weeks, after breaking his right leg against the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. This is the way the Bruins treat their teammates, and a fractured fibula is no exception.
“We’re happy to see him,” Thornton said. “I’m sure he knows he’s still a part of this team. Obviously, the type of group that we have, guys go out of their way to make sure he knows it. Guys are happy when they see him, everyone’s smiling when he’s in the room.
“He laid it all out there for us. The least we can do is make him feel welcome.”
Campbell broke his leg while blocking a shot against Pittsburgh, and then played for another 47 seconds before he could make it off the ice. The play cost him the rest of the postseason — he hopes to be ready for the start of training camp — but it helped push the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final.
“It was a tough week, not because of the surgery, but just because I didn’t feel a part of the team,” Campbell said. “That’s not because anybody left me out. I was included a lot. I got text messages every day from all the guys, even from staff.
“It’s just, not being there, you naturally feel a little bit excluded and helpless. So to walk in [Monday] and see the guys, that was a great relief for me to know that they do still recognize me and I am still a part of the team.”
His leg immobilized in a black-and-white cast, and supported by crutches, Campbell made his way to the podium Tuesday, addressing the media for the first time since suffering the injury June 5. And, somehow, he managed to downplay that painful final shift of the season, saying, “It hurt a little bit.
“I’ve always felt like if you could get up, you should get up,” Campbell added. “I tried, I got up. I tried to get in the lane and prevent passes. Obviously I wasn’t very effective at that, but at least I tried to not be a liability as best I could.”
At the time, he wasn’t certain the leg was broken. But, as he put it, “I felt like it was a different feeling. I blocked a few shots before. This just seemed different.
“I was not positive, but fairly sure that there was something wrong. I don’t have X-ray vision, so I didn’t know at the time that it was broken for sure.”
It was, but the adrenaline kept him going. The opponent kept him going. The need to get the Bruins to the next round kept him going.
‘I’m no different than anyone else on these two teams in the playoffs. I was just trying to finish the play and do my job.’
They did, and though they are up, two games to one, on the Blackhawks, the Bruins could use the player who is currently limping around TD Garden.
“He’s a guy we dearly miss,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’ve seen him do so many good things for our hockey club. It was a big loss when he got injured.
“You don’t replace the individual; you try and work around it.”
Campbell had surgery on his right fibula June 10, and for now he can only let it heal.
He has been told that the recovery could take six to eight weeks “as a soft timeline.”
“If you look at six to eight weeks, it puts me in mid July to late July, early August, I’ll be back on my feet,” Campbell said. “Obviously my training program is going to change a little bit. That’s a big part of my game. But that’s just something that I have to deal with and I’ll have to work around.”
For now, Campbell is focused on watching the Bruins — he called sitting on the sidelines “a huge test of your character” — and deflecting attention from himself.
“I’m no different than anyone else on these two teams in the playoffs,” he said. “I was just trying to finish the play and do my job.”
Now he is left cheering for the rest of the guys to do their jobs.
“When I got traded to Boston, I thought it was tailor-made to my game, the way this team exemplifies the heart and soul of what a hockey player should be made of,” Campbell said. “I was proud to come to this team and play hard for this team every night.
“There’s 18 other guys in that room that would do the same thing, and that’s what makes us successful, and makes us a hard team to play against. I’d rather be known for my play other than getting hurt.
“But I just want to play hard for the team and for the players in that room.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.