Cam Russell’s name doesn’t necessarily standout among the blue-liners who skated for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1990s. When teammates include players like Chris Chelios, Steve Smith and Gary Suter, a player like Russell is going to get overshadowed.
But Russell was on the Blackhawks for a decade, appearing in 361 games with the Blackhawks between 1989 and 1998. That number is higher than Suter’s 301 games and Smith’s 317 games, although he was still well shy of Chelios’ mark of 664.
A third-round pick (50th overall) of Chicago in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, Russell was a massive defenseman at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. And as Russell’s size and the era he played in may suggest, Russell was a prototypical tough guy, peaking with 200 penalty minutes during the 67 games he played in the 1993-94 season. Most of Russell’s YouTube highlights revolve around fights, like this scrap with noted enforcer Tie Domi:
Or this tilt with future teammate Bob Probert:
Russell remained with the Hawks until the 1998-99 season, when he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for Roman Vopat and a sixth-round draft pick in November. Three months later, a torn rotator cuff ended that season and Russell’s career. Since then, he’s moved to front office roles where he’s been the general manager for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads since 2008.
The lasting memory of Russell’s career, for me, centers around the “Blackhawks Home Ice Updates” that used to air as commercials on Sportschannel/Fox Sports Chicago/whatever it was called at that point. During the 90s, when the Blackhawks home games were notoriously not on local television, the only way to see what was happening on the ice was to catch one of these updates. They’d be aired as commercials during whatever programming was airing that day, and one of these updates featured a goal by Russell, which was a rare occurrence: he scored just nine in his NHL career. Because of how rare they were and knowing the time frame of when this occurred, I can reasonably conclude that the Russell goal featured in that update was the lone tally in a 1-0 Blackhawks win over the Boston Bruins on March 22, 1998.
Imagine that now: the only way to see what happened during a Blackhawks home game, without buying a ticket, was to hope to be in front of the TV when a 30-second commercial provided an update. That was life in the 90s as a Blackhawks fan.