VANCOUVER, Canada — All the years of near misses, tedious bus rides and one excruciating waiting game faded away on Saturday morning for Andrew Campbell.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter summoned the 26-year-old defenseman and told him that he would be making his NHL debut, against the Vancouver Canucks.
Televised on "Hockey Night in Canada," no less.
"I got like a shiver right down my body, 'Wow, This is going to be the night,'" Campbell said after the morning skate.
Arguably, this was the most important conversation of Campbell's hockey life. He was drafted by the Kings in the third round in 2008 (74th overall), put down roots with the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H., and watched others in his peer group get the call to come to Los Angeles.
Campbell could have let frustration turn into bitterness. But he didn't allow those emotions to set in. He kept working hard at his craft and was named the Monarchs captain at the start of this season. The Kings kept a close eye on him, and Assistant General Manager Rob Blake was impressed by his attitude and progression. He had 16 points and was plus-17 in 68 games in Manchester.
"That's probably the No. 1 thing: Persevered," Blake said. "Probably had to battle through a lot of years there, seeing different guys getting opportunities and different guys making careers and that.
"Stayed to the pace, stayed true to it and led that team this year as a captain. He's been very good there."
Said Campbell, of the long wait: "Sure you have those moments and those days. The season gets long and you wonder if you're ever going to get your chance. I like to keep a positive outlook. And I still kept on to that dream. ...
"It's a thrill and excitement. It's been a long time in the minors. A lot of hard work and a lot of just pushing through."
The move was triggered when Kings defenseman Drew Doughty suffered a shoulder injury against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. Doughty is with the Kings on the trip but will be out at least a few days, because it doesn't make sense for the team to rush him back. His injury has improved even since Friday.
"For Soupy," Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said of Campbell, "'Hockey Night in Canada,' right. So how cool is that? I'm sure he's on the phone with all his family and friends, 'Oh my God, I'm playing on 'Hockey Night in Canada.'
"It's one you always remember. It's one that, when guys see it happen, they have that extra smile in the dressing room knowing how much it means to that person, because we all put so much effort in to play our first NHL game."
Campbell joined the team here on Friday night and has been busy trying to help make arrangements for his parents, Roger and Cindy, to come to the game in Vancouver. The 6-4, 206-pound defenseman grew up in Caledonia, Ontario, near Hamilton.
He got the word in Manchester when an assistant trainer went to his apartment and banged on his door. "Apparently my phone was on silent," Campbell said. "I missed about five calls. That was a good wakeup."
Some in the organization think that Campbell could be the sixth or seventh defenseman with the Kings next season. This season, the Kings had a glut of one-way contracts.
"He's probably been in that mode," Blake said. "We had nine one-ways to start the season and then we lost [Keaton] Ellerby [on waivers]. So Soupy has been in that mix pretty much all along. It's a good opportunity here for him at this level to see too."