Carlee Campbell ready to captain Team White at CWHL All-Star Game

A self-proclaimed “grandma rookie”, Carlee Campbell didn’t anticipate captaining a CWHL All-Star team. Now that she’s been named captain of Team White, she’s taking it in stride.

Less than a week after she was confirmed as captain of one of the two CWHL All-Star teams, Toronto Furies defender Carlee Campbell was still coming to terms with the honor.

“I’m still coming to the reality that I’ve actually been named captain,” Campbell said over the weekend as her Furies were playing two games in Montreal. “I was upstairs getting coffee and [Marie-Philip] Poulin came up to me and said ‘Congratulations’ and I was like ‘Oh God... Thank you’.”

“I’m a grandma rookie in this league” - Carlee Campbell

Campbell won the online captain vote with 2,088 votes, or 11.85%. She doesn’t only credit friends or family, who she says did do a lot for her getting the nod. She also received a boost from some very motivated co-workers. Campbell works for Salesforce, and that got the momentum going.

“We have hubs and offices around the world and word got out that there was a professional female hockey player at the office and they went nuts and it was awesome,” she said.

“I feel so lucky to be honest. I’m not a name in this league. I came back after six years. Playing with people like Poulin and [Natalie] Spooner and other amazing Olympic players, that was pretty cool for me. It’s an honor to say the least.”

“I don’t think it will hit me until the day of when I’m actually drafting people and I’m drafting people off the Olympic team. I am really excited but I don’t think it’s going to hit me until the day of.”

“I don’t know what other people think about me being named captain because I’m sure there are other people who deserve it more than I do but it will be an experience for sure.”

For Campbell, in her first year with the Furies, just being named among the 34 players taking part in the game was a surprise.

“I am a grandma rookie in this league,” she said, laughing. “I was shocked. I know when I was told my name was being put through I was like ‘OK that’s cool’ and not expecting anything at all, especially with all the amazing defensemen in the league that are in the National program and that I’ve played against growing up, it was kind of surprising to me. I have confidence in myself, but that was… yeah.”

Campbell’s road to the CWHL was a winding one. She graduated from Clarkson University after the 2009-10 season and is considered one of the top defenders to attend the university. Her time at Clarkson coincided with Boston Blades rookie goaltender Lauren Dahm, and her teams set the foundation for current CWHL All-Stars Jamie Lee Rattray, Erin Ambrose, Renata Fast and Erica Howe, among others.

She decided to come back this year after six years away, and was an 11th round pick by the Furies. She has played all 24 games, with one goal and eight assists.

“I have always wanted to come back but it was a matter of work and trying to get my life going outside of hockey after university that kind of kept me away from the sport,” Campbell said. “The way I stayed in it initially was through coaching in Oakville. And I have friends like [Christina] Kessler and [Carolyne] Prevost who have been on the team for a really long time and they have been asking me to come back for a few years now. This year, it was one of those things where my life had settled down, my job, got married, everything was consistent so I was able to add something else to my schedule.”

“I think I’ve been able to make the adjustment,” she said. “Am I as good as I was when I was playing in college? I don’t think so. I think I’m still a second behind but I have been doing competitive CrossFit for the past four years so I really credit that for keeping me reasonably in shape. The first month, and especially the first few games I felt like I was skating in cement.”

She says that she hasn’t started strategizing for the draft against Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson, who tied for second spot and will captain Team Blue.

“It’s 2-vs-1 so that’s going to be fun. Natalie and I grew up playing against each other too. It will be a little intimidating having her and Mikkelson next to me but hopefully I get a good first pick. I know we’re going to have a great time with it and she’s been our captain all year and someone I look up to.”

For Spooner, she is already thinking ahead.

“It will be fun. I don’t think that there have been two Toronto players before so it will be cool,” Spooner said. “Maybe I’ll try and bribe her not to take [Poulin] first so I can play with her again.”

Spooner, who was a captain last year against Julie Chu, is excited to be re-united with Mikkelson, her teammate from the Canadian National team and the Amazing Race Canada.

It is Campbell, though, who will get the first pick in the draft.

“I think I know who my first overall pick will be but I’ll keep it to myself,” she said.