Cam Neely was the prototype power forward in hockey. He could skate, fight, cause chaos in the crease, and SCORE(LOOCH hope you read this).
He came to the Bruins in a trade with Vancouver during the 1986-1987 season. The Bruins shipped over Barry Pederson to the Canucks for Neely and the third overall pick in the ’87 draft which became Boston blue liner, Glen Wesley.
This could be considered one of the best trades in sports history. The Bruins sent a player on the back nine of his career for two players that would be pillars in the Bruins Cup runs in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Neely’s impact was felt right away. He scored 69 points in his first season with Boston in ’86-’87. He broke the 90 point plateau in ’89-’90 and ’90-’91. In both of those seasons, he broke the 50 goal mark.
However, that would be the last time he would net 50 goals for some time.
In the 1991 Wales Conference Finals against Pittsburgh, arch-nemesis Ulf “Ulfie” Samuelsson hit Neely with a knee to knee cheap shot which would alter his career forever.
The knee injury compounded with the formation of myositis ossificans, where muscle becomes bone, limited Neely to 22 games over the next two seasons. The beloved member of the Black and Gold was seeing his career slip away.
However, Cam Neely had the determination and grit to prolong his playing days longer than anyone imagined. He would rehab and rehab. He refused to call it quits.
And in the ’93-’94 season, Neely willed himself on the ice for 49 games. It would be one of the most amazing 49 game spans in Boston Bruins history.
After two lost seasons, which he only scored 20 total goals, Neely came ready to show himself and the NHL that he had a lot left in his tank. With gifted passer Adam Oates(80 assists) by his side, Cam Neely took the hockey world by storm.
Cam would skip games when his knee needed rest. He didn’t play back to back nights to conserve his strength and stamina.
And this reduced workload produced amazing results.
Cam was a man possessed and looked like the pre-Ulfie hit force that the league feared.
And rightfully so.
Neely scored every way imaginable.
One hander versus Vancouver for Goal #3.
Spin-o-rama against Ottawa for Goal #6
End to end rush versus Quebec for Goal #36.
3 hat tricks (one pure) against Calgary, Washington, and Martin Brodeur and the Devils.
His 50th goal was scored in his 44th game against Washington that hospitably contributed 5 of Neely’s 50 goals.
Defenseman David Shaw took a routine slapper from the point. Neely, who had some of the best hand-eye coordination for a big man, deflected the shot at waist level past Capitals goalie, Don Beaupre.
He accomplished what only a select few had done in hockey history.
Only Super Mario, The Great One, and the Golden Brett had better goals per game average than Neely. Not bad company to be lumped in with.
However, none of them did this on a gimpy knee.
Neely would capture the Masterson trophy awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.
Cam would go on to play two more seasons which he averaged 45 games played and 26 goals.
A degenerative hip condition forced Neely to hang up his skates for good in 1996 and he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.
Neely gave Bruins fans the hockey equivalent of McGwire breaking Maris record (in my opinion). No one thought they could do it and when they did everyone was at the edge of their seats.
Many memories of Neely keep flooding into my memory as I write this.
The big goals.
The crushing body checks.
The heavyweight bouts with Ulfie and Claude Lemieux.
However, the ’93-’94 season was magical. You were rooting for Neely because he battled back and he NEVER GAVE UP. His picturesque goals from that amazing year are forever emblazed in every Bruins fan memory that was born before 1980.
Cam Neely is now the VP of the Boston Bruins. He brings that same grit and determination to his position as he did as a player.
He wants to bring a Stanley Cup to Boston badly. Who can doubt him after what he did in the ’93-’94 season?
[url]Enjoy Neely’s Nifty Fifty!
Joe Gill is a featured blogger for[url] boston.sportsthenandnow.com, [url]Rootzoo.com and [url]Trufan.com