Canadian ‘Duke’ Campbell was one of the stars of the first English National League (1935-54), assisting two clubs to three league titles and six cups, and appearing on four All-Star teams, one as coach.
Campbell, whose skating and passing skills reminded Canadian fans of ‘Duke’ Keats, an early NHL player, came to London for the 1935-36 season with Percy Nicklin, who had been his coach with Moncton Hawks in New Brunswick.
Nicklin took over as the boss of Richmond Hawks and with Duke on board they tied league champions Wembley Lions on points, but had to settle for the runners-up spot on goal difference.
With Nicklin and many of his team-mates, the following winter he moved to the state-of-the art, 8,200-seat Harringay Arena and patrolled the wing with the Greyhounds for the next four seasons.
His playmaking talent combined with the goal-potting of centreman Joe Beaton (a fellow Hall of Famer), was one of the keys to the Greyhounds’ successes in winning the league and London Cup in 1938-39 and the league and National Tournament in the next campaign. He was voted on to the Ice Hockey World’s All-Star ‘A’ team as left-wing in 1939-40.
After working in an aircraft factory during World War Two, he started the 1946-47 campaign at Brighton, where he had spent his off-duty hours in war-time playing hockey in the Sports Stadium. The Tigers won the Autumn Cup, their first ever trophy, and though he had switched to defence, he was runner-up in scoring behind skipper Bobby Lee with 17 points (six goals).
He added another 35 points (eight goals) to his tally when he returned to Harringay, this time icing with the Greyhounds’ stablemates, the Racers, reaching second place in the league (behind the Tigers) and winning the London Cup. His 38 assists during the season were a record for a defenceman and he was duly selected to the All-Star ‘A’ team again.
Appointed captain of the Racers in 1947-48, he led them to the Autumn Cup and another bridesmaid’s place in the league while scoring a point a game with 58, including 17 goals. The Racers finally topped the league in 1948-49 and Campbell again recorded the most assists by a defenceman with 29 in 28 league contests.
Having been assistant to Nicklin at Harringay for three seasons, after captaining the Racers to the Autumn Cup in 1949-50 he jumped at the chance to be player-coach with Earls Court Rangers for 1950-51. In his second year at Earl’s Court, he was voted on to the All-Star ‘B’ team as coach when he steered them to runners-up place in the league after they had finished in the cellar three times.
He was the last coach of the Rangers as ice hockey at Earl’s Court ceased after the 1952-53 season. After playing sparingly in 31 games, he retired, aged 43, the oldest player in the league. In his 12 seasons he recorded 156 goals and 255 assists for 411 points from 545 games, and took 203 penalty minutes.
Keith William Campbell was born on 21 September 1909 in Stratton, Ontario and died on 25 July 1981 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was the first inductee into the Hall of Fame in 1948 when he was the ‘iron man’ of English ice hockey with 359 consecutive appearances.