Bell began playing hockey at four years old, and grew up admiring Wayne Gretzky and Doug Gilmour. He played four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Ottawa 67's, and was part of the Memorial Cup championship in 1998-99. He was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft as the eighth overall pick, and scored his first NHL goal against future Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy. Bell was a bronze medalist with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2000. In the summer of 2006, he was traded to the San Jose Sharks in a three-way deal involving Chicago and the Ottawa Senators.
Bell was acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs via trade at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft on June 22, 2007. Bell is currently in the final year of a 3-year, $6.5 million contract signed in July 2006. Bell will be paid $2 million for the first two years of the contract and $2.5 million for the final year. On October 6, 2008, Bell was placed on waivers, which cleared the way for him being assigned to Toronto's AHL farm team, the Toronto Marlies.
During the 2006 Labour Day weekend, Bell was arrested in the San Jose area for an alleged hit and run, and driving under the influence. Both are felony offences. His arraignment was set for January 3, 2007. Bell pleaded no contest to drunk driving causing injury and hit-and-run on August 14, 2007. He was to serve six months in jail after completing the 2007-08 hockey season but later was told to work in a California jail, which he did from June 2nd, 2008 to August 15th, 2008. In addition to his conviction, Bell was placed in Stage 2 of the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse Program and was suspended for 15 games by the NHL on September 12, 2007.