Monday, June 12, 2017

Goodbye, Jeff

TigerBlog walked down the Jadwin stairs Friday, down to the basement he and his Office of Athletic Communications colleagues call home.

Oh, and Brian Fitzwater, the IT guy for the athletic department. When the OAC relocated downstairs in late 2015, the was space for eight people, and there are seven OACers.

Fitz, as he is known, was thrown into the package. If you ever wanted to share your office space with one random person, the IT guy is a perfect choice.

The printer isn't working? "Hey, Fitz." Got some weird error message on your computer? "Hey, Fitz." Something goofy with your phone? "Hey, Fitz."

It's like sharing office space with the help desk.

Then there's Fitz himself. He's about as laid back as it gets, which is great considering what he has to deal with all the time. TigerBlog isn't the greatest technology mind of all time, but he does like to at least try to solve the problem (usually by turning something off and back on) before he reaches out for help.

Still, there are times he has to reach out for help. Each time, Fitz has fixed it in about 10 seconds. That's his job. People come to him with problems they can't identify or correct, and they seem incredibly daunting to them. On top of that, people are so reliant on their computers, phones, tablets and everything else that they come to Fitz with a total sense of desperation.

And he calmly fixes what ever the problem is and then sends them on their way. Never once, in all that time, has TB ever heard him yell "it's so simple. Fix it yourself."

Plus, he's an IT guy. By nature that makes him a little different. For instance, he had a really bad nose bleed last week. What did he do? He took a picture of it. Then he said to TB "hey, want to see something cool?"

Anyway, as TB came around the corner after getting to the bottom of the stairs Friday, he heard a familiar voice outside the locked office space.

It was Jeff Kampersal, who was on the phone with Fitz.

Kampersal, as you probably know, is the new women's hockey coach at Penn State. This comes, extraordinarily enough, after 21 years as the head coach at Princeton.

During his time at Princeton, Kampersal had a record of 327-261-58. Most recently, he led Princeton to the 2016 Ivy League championship and NCAA tournament and then the ECAC semifinals this year.

TigerBlog and Kampersal go back to before Kampersal coached the women's team here. TB first met him back in 1992, when Kampersal was a senior for the Princeton men's team.

Kurt Kehl and Mark Panus, TigerBlog's predecessors in the OAC, asked him if he'd write two feature stories about a men's hockey players. One was Andre Faust, who would go on to become, TB believes, the first Princeton player ever to score an NHL goal.

The other was Kampersal.

When TigerBlog first started out in the newspaper business, he was paid $15 per story, plus 22 cents per mile. TigerBlog kept his first check, which was for $15, rather than cashing it, figuring it would have sentimental value down the road. It might have - if he had any idea where he put it.

Instead of keeping the check, he should have bought stock in a new company called "Apple." If he had invested $15 then, it would have returned $337,824,443 by now. Or something like that.

Anyway, you know what Kehl and Panus paid him for those stories? Lunch.

TigerBlog knew little to nothing about hockey and Princeton hockey back then. He can't imagine what he wrote in those two features. They probably weren't very good. Not even worth $15.

But he always remembered the first impression Kampersal made on him from that small time they spent together back then. He could tell Kampersal was a good guy.

Nothing that's happened in the last 21 years has changed that impression for TigerBlog. Year after year, Kampersal represented Princeton with class and dignity, with on-ice success and players who routinely won awards for academic success and service.

Like all of the best coaches at Princeton, Kampersal made himself a big part of the departmental culture.

There was a party last week for Kampersal before he left Princeton. It was easy to tell he was uncomfortable being rewarded and celebrated for his time here. He's a humble guy.

And an easy guy to root for. Oh, and speaking of "guy," the storyline for his hiring is pretty simple.

This is from a story in the Daily Collegian, the Penn State student paper:
Penn State won big the last time it hired a former Princeton hockey coach.
The Nittany Lions dipped into the Tigers’ pipeline again with the hiring of Jeff Kampersal, hoping to recreate the success that Guy Gadowsky brought from Princeton.

Kampersal will be heading to the same school that took another Princeton hockey coach, Guy Gadowsky, who took the Princeton men to two NCAA tournaments and then took Penn State there this year. Kampersal and Gadowsky are close, which makes for a good reunion.

Penn State has put a lot of money into its hockey programs, and its hockey arena. It's a new challenge for Kampersal, one that comes after 21 years of loyalty and hard work here at his alma mater.

TigerBlog wishes him the best.

When he said goodbye to him the other day, it dawned on him that he was talking to the same good guy he'd met all those years ago.

Best of luck, Jeff Kampersal.

You definitely made Hobey proud during your time here.

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