By Ned Bekavac
The Royal City lost a big-time sports contributor late last week with the death of Alex Campagnaro.
“I’ve known him all my life. What can I say? They don’t make Campies anymore,” said Joe Holody, on Monday.
Campagnaro, who was inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame in 1997 in the builders category, passed away on Friday at the age of 94.
Back in the day, he and Holody were instrumental in bringing big success to local junior hockey.
Campagnaro was vice president of hockey operations with the Guelph Holody Platers, a team that made three trips to the Centennial Cup final, winning the trophy in 1977-78.
That ’78 team, which was inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, included the likes of future NHLers George McPhee, Brian MacLellan and Brian Hayward, and future NHL official Paul Devorski.
Campagnaro stayed with the team, owned by Holody, when they entered the Ontario Hockey League as the Guelph Platers, a team that won the Memorial Cup in 1985-86.
“Mr. Camp,” as he was affectionately called, never married nor had children, but was a huge influence on sporting youngsters in town, says Holody.
“His life-long work was helping kids,” said Holody, who hired Campagnaro as a salesman at his Holody Electro-Plating Limited in the ’60s, and Campagnaro would go on to work there for several decades.
Campagnaro played OHA junior and intermediate hockey in the 1930s and later played for the Canadian Army’s Petawawa Blue Bombers during the Second World War. He coached and managed for many years in the Guelph Minor Hockey Association and in 1979 was awarded the Canadian Amateur Association Award for services to the GMHA.
Hockey, and also baseball, were “his life,” said Holody.
While health issues were becoming a factor in later years, he could still be seen at some local sporting events.
Holody talks about trying to help his pal out – he gave him a cane.
“And then another,” says Holody.
But Campagnaro wanted to walk without the help.
“He gave me a cane back, God bless him,” says Holody. “And now, believe it or not, I’m starting to use it.”
“Despite his awards and championships, he will be remembered by hundreds of young men for the positive influence he had on their lives,” says the plaque honouring Campagnaro in the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame.
Campagnaro was the son of the late Carlo and Rose, brother of Lee, Armelinda, Victor and the late Patrick, Michael and Eric.
The funeral is today at 10:30 a.m. at Holy Rosary church.