CATCH YOU ON THE REBOUND!
From a Local Sports Legend: Robert Campbell Reflects on Fort McMurray
Robert Campbell is a successful man. His professional career is impressive. His influence was vast.
An esteemed lawyer for more than 45 years, he is currently President of the Western Canada hotel chain BCMI Group of Companies and the award-winning wine producer Dirty Laundry Vineyard. But his legacy may be most profound within the world of amateur sport.
From the time he arrived in Fort McMurray in 1975 to open a law firm with Adam Germain, later relocating with his wife Trudy to British Columbia in 2012, Campbell, better known as “Bob” to friends, was heavily embedded in the community through his outstanding volunteerism.
“Like most people, I had a five-year plan when I came to Fort McMurray but, like so many people that come to Fort McMurray, you get caught up in the community and people become friends,” admitted Campbell, 70, from his residence in Summerland, British Columbia.
“I met my wife here and then we had our first child (son Drew in 1982, followed by brothers T.J. and Brett and sister Ali) and you start establishing roots. Then, you realize that there is no place that you would rather be, and you stay.”
Campbell’s first major involvement was starting a local baseball league with the assistance of John Diduck.
“I loved baseball and it was my way of giving back,” said Campbell, looking back to 1975. “We got the first baseball league going in town with four teams for kids between eight-and-12 years-old. It was a start. It was a lot of fun getting that off the ground and working with the kids and working with the provincial baseball organization.”
Campbell also found time to coach Bantam house league hockey in those early years.
“I enjoyed both sports, baseball and hockey, and I was happy to get involved with young kids and improve their skills. I had as much fun as they did,” he said.
Campbell uses the word “fun” numerous times when looking back at his involvement in local sports.
He would go on to become President of the Northern Alberta Athletic Association (Fort McMurray Oil Barons Junior A Hockey) from 1984 to 1987.
“We had quite a challenge back then, and we were about to lose the franchise because of insolvency. But working with a very energetic group of people, we were able to salvage the franchise. And, of course, the Oil Barons story today is they are probably the most stable Junior A franchise in the country in terms of fiscal position and probably one of the most competitive,” he said.
Sticking to the ice, two other highlights for Campbell include: being the 2000 Royal Bank Cup Co-Chair, which is symbolic of Junior hockey supremacy in Canada and was won by the host Fort McMurray Oil Barons. It remains one of the single greatest sports moments in Fort McMurray city’s rich history.
“That was one of the most important times for me… those ten days of the Royal Bank Cup,” he said.
He also managed the L. Robert Enterprises Pee Wee AA team to an International B Class Championship at the 37th Quebec International Pee-Wee Tournament in 1996.
“Winning the international division and seeing a bunch of kids from that go on to play; Scottie Upshall of course in the NHL, but others went on to play university hockey and got scholarships and played Junior,” he recalled.
Toss in helping out with facilitating Little League Park and the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre, the biggest question one must ask. How did Robert Campbell find the time?
“You make time. If you enjoy it, you make time for it. If you don’t, it goes by the wayside,” said Campbell, who enjoys hiking, golf and playing pickleball. “Generally speaking. the good Lord has looked after me and guided me. I made a few mistakes along the way but, Trudy and I are happy and, all of the kids (and grandchildren) are still in Fort McMurray and also giving back.”
What does he miss most about Fort
“The people. When I think back to Fort McMurray when I got there everyone was young and starting family-life and doing their careers. There was energy and the optimism was incredible,” he enthused.
Despite all of the accolades, including the Honourary Lifetime Director of the Oil Barons, 2007 Keyano College Distinguished Citizen Award, 2011 Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Distinguished Citizen Award, and an induction into the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 as a founding father; it was never ego-driven.
“I never looked for any recognition. I did it because I liked it,” admitted Campbell. “I was happy to contribute as I got so much out of it. I guess you could say I did it for selfish reasons. I did it because I liked it so much. I had fun.”
Catch you on the rebound!
- Headshot of Robert Campbell.
- Robert Campbell said co-chairing for the 2000 Royal Bank Cup, which was won by the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, was one of the best times of his life. Photo by Dan Lines.
- Robert Campbell was inducted into the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 as a founding father. Photos supplied