In his 10 seasons with the Bruins, Cam Neely gave Boston fans innumerable thrills - whether it was pucks flying into the net or fists flying into opponents' faces. Here is one man's subjective list of the eight most memorable moments involving the unforgettable No. 8.
Feb. 16, 1987 - Killer instinct If there was a fearsome but respected Canadien, it was Mike McPhee. He didn't have to fight; sometimes he just glared. But when McPhee ran Neely into the Forum boards behind the Bruins net, the McPhee mystique came unraveled in a hurry. Bouncing off the boards, Neely responded with a straight left, immediately wobbling McPhee. Once they squared off, it was over quickly. Neely landed a few solid lefts and McPhee ended up in a familiar position for Neely foes: on all fours. Legendary Bruins announcer Fred Cusick proudly proclaimed, "You do not mess with Cam Neely.''
April 26, 1988 - Canadiens killer The Bruins finally discovered an antidote for the Canadien curse. With a 3-1 series lead in the haunted house on Saint Catherine Street, Cam Neely put the Canadiens away with two goals in the Game 5 clincher. He gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead by overpowering defensemen Rick Green and Chris Chelios. But the piece de resistance was a deke instead of a body check, a quick move around overmatched defenseman Petr Svoboda at the Montreal blue line. Neely cruised in alone on Patrick Roy and calmly beat him over the glove with a spellbinding wrist shot that ended 45 years - and 18 playoff series - of torment. "I'm the one who's overjoyed,'' said general manager Harry Sinden. "Me and all those people who have been sitting in their living rooms, watching, for all of these years.''
Nov. 1, 1990 - Zinging the Blues He had trouble breathing because he broke his nose a couple of days earlier. And he was in for a long night against rugged Blues defenseman Scott Stevens. Any doubt Cam Neely was going to be the star of the game? After a shift with his regular linemates in overtime, Neely got a 30-second breather, bolted out with new linemates and seized the moment. He beat Stevens to the puck at the Boston blue line, creating a two-on-one with Bob Carpenter. As he charged down the right wing, Neely unloaded one of his blinding slap shots that beat Curtis Joseph to the short side. "I thought about passing, but when [defenseman Jeff Brown] played the pass, I held the puck and shot,'' Neely said. "I don't think Carpie minded.''
March 27, 1993 - Bad to the bone Among Neely's rivals, shadows, and nemeses, Ulf Samuelsson stands alone. Neely's recovery from Samuelsson's questionable hit in the 1991 playoffs was two years in the making. His anticipated rematch with Samuelsson was almost as extensive (Samuelsson was injured two weeks earlier and didn't play in a game at Pittsburgh). Their long-awaited encounter was all the rage - especially Neely's. The moment Neely trampled Samuelsson at 7:49 of the first period, a Garden sellout of 14,448 came to a standing ovation. Two minutes later, Samuelsson cuffed Neely on the back of the helmet, and that was the last cheap shot Ulfie threw. With an enraged Neely firing off his trademark straight left, Samuelsson spent the confrontation covering up. Neely was thrown out for instigating the "fight.'' "I don't really respect the way he plays,'' Neely said. "I don't like the guy.''
Oct. 28, 1993 - Spin city This one makes the video honor roll, a blend of power and finesse that even Neely acknowledges was one of his prettiest. Streaking down the right wing, Neely faked a slap shot (he actually skated in too deep for a slapper), then unleashed a spin-o-rama, a high-powered backhander that caught Ottawa goaltender Darrin Madeley - and everyone else at Boston Garden - by surprise. `'You're not going to see that too often from me, I'll tell you,'' said Neely.
Jan. 31, 1994 - What a goal He wasn't in the slot, barreling down the right wing, or battling in front of the net. This was Cam Neely the artist, a memento for the archives. Taking a pass from Adam Oates at center ice, Neely charged at Quebec defenseman Alexei Gusarov. Neely ditched the power move (i.e. running over the defenseman), and deftly stickhandled around Gusarov. In alone against goaltender Stephane Fiset, Neely made a feint to the forehand, moved to Fiset's right, and slid a backhander into the open side. ``It's not often that big, strong men like that make plays like that with soft hands and plays nasty like he did tonight,'' said Bruins coach Brian Sutter.
March 7, 1994 - Doing a number He joined the greatest goal scorers of all time and he was playing on a wobbly left knee attached to an ossified hip. With a tip-in goal (his second of the game) from his office, he scored his 50th goal in his 44th game, joining Wayne Gretzky (50 in 39 games and 50 in 42 games) and Mario Lemieux (50 in 44 games) as the fastest to reach the magic number. `'I wasn't sure about 50 shifts, let alone 50 goals,'' Neely told the Globe's Francis Rosa.
Sept. 5, 1996 - Retirement Fragile from injuries and exhausted from constant rehabilitation, Cam Neely brought down the house again, this time with a tearful goodbye. After a 13-year career, he turned out the lights and left at age 31. He redefined his position - power forward - a unique package of precision and power, courage and grace. ``There'll be a lot of highlight clips,'' Ray Bourque said. ``It was fun to know you had Cam on your side.'' He attempted a comeback 2 years later, the footage of Neely barreling around Ristuccia Arena raising the hopes of a forlorn fan base, but the pain in his hip just wouldn't go away. ``I'm completely fine with the fact that I can't play,'' he said. He might have been alone in that thought.