‘It means the world to us’: Matthew Campbell remembered in jersey retirement ceremony
Matthew Campbell will be remembered throughout Juneau as a symbol of hope and kindness, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon after a unique honor.
Treadwell Arena was buzzing with emotion on Saturday during Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Hockey’s game against Tri-Valley High School for the night known as #LiveLikeMatthewC Night dedicated to Matthew, who died in 2020 with stage four cancer died 24 years old. In addition to a commemorative display featuring commemorative bracelets and information about the Matthew Campbell Scholarship Fund, the league made a surprise announcement at the end of the first period, holding a ceremony on the ice to officially retire Matthew’s No. 20 jersey from the team, an honor that has never been granted to anyone.
JDHS Senior Brandon Campbell, who not only wears his brother’s hockey number but also has a tattoo of the number 20 on his arm, said the surprise announcement brought both happiness and sadness, but ultimately saw it as a great ending of the home season and his home hockey career.
“It means a lot to me that my brother’s number stopped working,” Brandon said. “I didn’t know it was going to happen until tonight, so it made me really happy and definitely put a little bit more fire under my feet.”
The Crimson Bears would defeat Tri-Valley 4-1, with the first two goals in the first period coming from sophomore Emilio Holbrook, a goal from senior Lake Bartlett in the second period, and the final goal from sophomore Dylan Sowa became third period. The Crimson Bears will face Kenai Central High School in Thursday’s state tournament.
Despite the excitement on the ice, the emotional core of the evening was the heartfelt ceremony where the Campbell family gathered on the ice to accept Matthew’s framed jersey while retired JDHS assistant coach Jay Lloyd gave a speech expressing the Impact of Matthew’s leadership and courage addressed The Team. Judy Cambell said her son was humbled by the honor but was mostly proud of his little brother.
“What saddened him the most was not being here for Brandon when he knew he was going to die,” Judy said. “He was here in spirit and to have done this for our family, to retire his number, it’s a great honor for a hockey player.”
Judy said the overwhelming love and support from the community isn’t surprising given that her family has lived in Juneau for many years and the city has watched her son grow up playing a variety of sports while he was in school. She said people to this day still share with her the impact Matthew had on Juneau.
“It means the world to us to hear his name and have people talk about him, wear his bracelets and see his stickers on people’s cars all over town,” Judy said. “People that we don’t even know, I’ll see him wearing his bracelets and I’ll meet new people and they’ll be like, ‘You’re Matthew’s mom? We wondered who he was and we read about him.’ Or people I’ve met have said, ‘I’ve had a rough day and I’ve looked at my bracelet and I didn’t even know Matthew, but I know it means kindness.’ We just couldn’t be prouder of our son Brandon and for wearing his big brother’s number all these years he has taken his grief over the loss of his brother and best friend and turned him into a really great person, successful and a hard worker and above all friendly, just like his brother.”
At the end of each game, Boline traditionally awards a player the “Battle Chain” – a large letter B hanging from a chunky chain – in recognition of outstanding achievement. At the end of Saturday’s game, that honor went to Brandon. Along with his Battle Chain, Brandon also proudly displayed the tattoo on his arm, which he said serves as his own special reminder that his big brother is never more than an arm’s length away.
“I wanted the tattoo because I play soccer, too,” Brandon said. “I wanted a way to show my love for my brother while I play because I wear number 20 on the ice to honor him but since I can’t wear number 20 while playing soccer, I have I got that tattooed so I could still display the number back then and remember him for the rest of my life.”
• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at [email protected].