In the past eight seasons, weíve seen the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics combine to win six championships. The Bruins, meanwhile, take the ice this week looking for their first Stanley Cup since 1972. In his 10 seasons with the Bruins, Hall of Famer Cam Neely never won it all, but his style of play helped pack the Garden every time the Bís took the ice.
Now, in his second year as vice president of the team, Neely is trying to bring that feeling back. I spoke with Neely about the team, his role, and what this all means to his acting career.
TC: We all saw the shots of you celebrating up in the management box after a win. Did this get your competitive juices flowing again?
Neely: It really did. I donít think I got that excited when I scored myself [laughs]. I didnít really think I would react and get as excited as I did, but itís hard not to. Obviously, I have a huge passion for the team and the organization, so it was tough not to get excited.
TC: I like to think I played a part in this. I made you hate doing studio work so badly it drove you to the front office.
Neely [laughs]: Thatís not the case at all, Tom. I felt like if I was going to put that much time into [being an analyst], it wasnít quite the direction I wanted to go into.
TC: NESN still has Barry Pederson in studio [the Bruins traded Pederson to Vancouver to get Neely in 1986]. You always seem to get swapped for him somehow, donít you?
Neely [laughs]: Itís amazing, isnít it?
TC: Whatís new with the Cam Neely Foundation?
Neely: We just recently opened a new Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Center at the Floating Hospital for Children. Itís a wonderful, wonderful space. Itís kind of a mini-Neely House right inside patient space. Itís state of the art, I think itís one of a kind in the country, so itís a great space. Weíre getting closer and closer to completing a $5 million pledge for the new Michael Neely Brain Tumor Treatment Research Center at Tufts Medical Center.
TC: Comics Come Home 14 is next month at Agganis Arena. Is it really the longest-running comedy benefit in America?
Neely: Thatís correct. Denis Leary still is excited about doing it, so 14 years later here we are. Itís a great time. Obviously a lot of great comics get involved. Most of them have some ties to the Boston area.
TC: What about your acting career? Does this front-office work put an end to that? Is this the end of Sea Bass and Mungo and everyone else?
Neely [laughs]: My primary focus right now is the Boston Bruins. I havenít been pounding on doors looking for acting work, if thatís what youíre talking about.
TC: Isnít Hollywood pounding on your door?
Neely: I know Denis [Leary] always likes to get some hockey scenes in ďRescue Me,Ē so when schedule permits, I enjoy doing that. As far as the Farrelly brothers go, they havenít been knocking on my door. Iím kind of surprised [laughs].
TC: You had two opening-night hat tricks in your career. As the NHL season begins, how important is it for a player to get off to a good start?
Neely: For me, from a mental standpoint, it always made me feel good going into the year. Plus, I was always so damned excited about starting the season, so to get off to a good start was something I always strived for.
TC: Do you have those same feelings for the start of this Bruins season?
Neely: Yeah, I do. Itís been a long time since weíve played a real hockey game, and I know the guys are excited about getting the season going. Itís exciting from the organizationís standpoint, not just the playersí standpoint. The whole organizationís ready to get going.
TC: There was a lot of buzz in the Game 6 win over the Canadiens in last seasonís playoffs. It had to be exciting to be a part of the group that brought that back to the ice at the Garden.
Neely: I think it was the best hockey game the new Garden has seen. We had a lot of guys who hadnít played in the playoffs yet, so to have that atmosphere in Boston is a nice taste for them. We want them to crave getting that feeling back. Then, to have that opposite feeling when you lose Game 7 and be done for the season, itís good to have that contrast for these guys to understand that it was great to win and it sucked to lose. From a growth standpoint, it was good for a lot of our young players.
TC: You had the Cam Neely wine unveiled last year to raise money for the Neely Foundation. Will there be a Cam Neely champagne if the Bruins win it all this season?
Neely [laughs]: I donít want to get too far ahead, Tom, but there would be a lot of champagne, thatís for sure.
OT contributor Tom Caron is the studio host of Boston Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network.
This week's OT cover
OT beat writersMaureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.
Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.
Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.
Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports