Brian Campbell will be remembered largely for flattening R.J. Umberger in the playoffs, for his spin-o-rama while carrying the puck, for winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks. One number he never forgot before he retired Monday after 17 seasons in the NHL: 29.
Campbell spent four years bouncing between the AHL and NHL before sticking with the Sabres in 2003-04. He was a healthy scratch for 29 games while trying to prove he was an NHL regular. He played in Europe during the lockout the following year and blossomed into one of Buffalo's best defensemen in 2005-06.
In conversations years later, Campbell often said the 29 games helped him become more patient, accelerated his maturity and made him a better person. He always was an exceptional skater. He never lost sight of his humble start, evolved into a very good player and a better guy.
Campbell was another key player the Sabres let get away after reaching the conference finals in consecutive years. In 2008, with his voice cracking with emotion after he was traded to San Jose, he made a plea to Buffalo fans. "Don't boo me when I come back," he said. Sure enough, they did.