MASON CITY, Iowa – It’s safe to say North Iowa Bulls forward Jack Campion knows the ice at the Mason City Arena better than anyone else wearing a North Iowa Bulls sweater.
He was the only second-year North Iowa player on the roster at season’s end, with 53 career games on the ice in downtown Mason City. When he wasn’t skating on the ice, he was busy maintaining it, driving the Zamboni as a member of the arena staff on weeknights.
“After a fun two years here, it’s hard to leave,” said Campion after his final home game against the St. Cloud Norsemen on April 15. “It was a fun time while it lasted. The fans were awesome, and the organization was awesome the whole two years that I was here.”
The Crystal, Minnesota native has known the sport of hockey about as long as is possible – as a young child, he learned to play the sport on a backyard rink. He had a good teacher – his dad, Jon, was a longtime linesman, and later a referee, in the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association, officiating games for blue-blood college hockey programs like Minnesota and North Dakota. His brother, Teddy, and cousins Joe and Matt all played alongside him for the Armstrong/Cooper High School team, leading the Wings to their first-ever section final in 2020.
Mason City was Campion’s last stop in junior hockey, but it was not his first – his first junior game came in the North American Hockey League with the Minot Minotauros in October 2020. His first junior goal came a week later, scoring a power play goal against the Willmar WarHawks just three shifts into his time with North Iowa.
“It was a good experience for me (in Minot),” said Campion. “It ended up working out well for me last year with the Bulls, with the season we had, both as a player and as a person.”
The goals kept coming, with six in his first seven games with North Iowa. By the end of March, he’d cranked out a point a game in 33 appearances. By mid-April, the Bulls had won not just an NA3HL West Division championship, but a Fraser Cup – Campion came up big again in the tournament, posting five points. Two of his three goals in St. Peters, Missouri were game-winners, including a third-period tally in the semifinals against an Oklahoma City squad that featured five former Bulls.
“I knew going in that it was going to be extremely hard to top the season we had last year,” said Campion. “It was an experience I’ll never forget, and I was super fortunate to be a part of that team.”
He signed an NAHL tender with the Johnstown Tomahawks just hours before last summer’s NAHL Entry Draft, but would return to Mason City for his last run in junior hockey, and when he returned, he found a few changes in the scenery. As the Amarillo Bulls prepared to move to Mason City and bring NAHL hockey back to Mason City for the first time since 2010, the NA3HL team’s future still had to be decided. When Campion and his four returning teammates stepped on the ice to start the season, they did so with a new logo on their jerseys, under a new coaching staff, stepping into the hallway out of a different locker room.
“It was similar and it was different,” said Campion. “We got to stay in the same rink, and we saw the coaches all the time. They were always helping us on the ice, so it was good to see Todd (Sanden) and (Mark) Hicks out there. The new faces that we saw in the building with the new team were a little different, too, but it was all fun.”
Campion didn’t waste any time kicking his new season into gear, scoring 10 goals in his first 10 games of 2021-22. After posting points in 23 of 27 games as a Mason City Toro, he was back with the Bulls to stay, earning a permanent NAHL call-up.
“It was an awesome feeling, wearing a Bulls jersey again,” said Campion. “That was my goal with the Toros, was to make it back up to this league. I was super fortunate to be given that opportunity by Todd and Coach Hicks, and I made the most of it.”
He earned his first point in his third game back with the Bulls, winning a second-period faceoff and feeding the puck to Tyler Braccini, who whipped it past Oskar Spinnars Nordin for his first North Iowa goal. The speed and skill of the higher league, though, did involve a bit of a learning curve. For Campion, that adjustment period lasted a few weeks, but he finally picked up his first goal on January 27. On February 11, he reached a career milestone with a goal and an assist against the Aberdeen Wings, putting him at 100 points for his junior career.
In the end, Campion would pick up 105 career points, one of only 17 players in the organization’s history to reach the century mark. Even with only 27 games under his belt this season, he finished third on the Toros roster in scoring before adding three more goals and 13 assists to his haul with the Bulls in the season’s second half.
The only thing that remained to be decided going into the offseason, has now also been decided – Campion announced at the beginning of the week that he would be continuing his career at St. Mary’s University, an NCAA Division III program in Winona, Minnesota.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Campion. “[My final junior season] was a lot of new experiences, and a few things that I got to try. It was a lot of fun for sure.”