Neely is 10th Boston player so honored

Updated: January 13, 2004, 11:37 AM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Cam Neely left hockey before he wanted to, but he did enough during a decade in Boston to become the 10th player to have his number retired by the Bruins.

Neely's No. 8 was raised to the rafters Monday night before the Bruins played Buffalo. He came out of the locker room, after taking his jersey from captain Joe Thornton, and skated a lap around the ice.

Cameron Neely
AP PhotoCam Neely, right, raises his number 8 with help from his wife, Paulina, his son, Jack, and his daughter, Ava. The Bruins retired his number Monday in Boston.

"It was an incredible feeling, the response from the crowd," the 38-year-old Neely said. "I was just trying to keep it together. That was really emotional just doing the lap and seeing the response from everybody. It's something I'll never forget."

The injury problems that eventually forced a premature retirement began in 1991 when he hurt his thigh during the Eastern Conference finals. Neely played in just 22 games over the next two seasons because of thigh and knee injuries.

He finally returned for the 1993-94 season, when he scored his 50th goal in the 44th game. Wayne Gretzky was the only player to reach the mark faster.

However, after two more seasons, Neely was forced to quit on Sept. 5, 1996, at age 31 because of chronic hip problems.

"My greatest regret is that I didn't play longer," said Neely, a five-time All-Star. "But it's something I really couldn't control."

Neely brought a physical style to Boston that quickly endeared him to fans after he was acquired from Vancouver on June 6, 1986, his 21st birthday. He led the Bruins in scoring seven times.

"If you talk about the power forwards in hockey, Cam was beyond that," Bruins assistant coach Wayne Cashman said. "He was the ultimate power forward. He did everything and really carried the Bruins tradition on."

One of the speakers was actor Michael J. Fox, Neely's longtime friend.

"I think you're the biggest, baddest Bruin of them all," Fox said.

In the 1989-90 season, Neely became the fifth Bruins player to score more than 50 goals and finished with 55. The following season he scored 51, joining Phil Esposito as the only Bruins to post consecutive 50-goal campaigns.

"I'm truly honored to be here," Neely said Monday during a speech that lasted three minutes. "As a Bruin, it's good to be home."

Neely's goals-per-game average of .544 is tied for 11th highest in NHL history, and his playoff average of .613 goals-per-game is fourth behind Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Maurice Richard.

"I considered myself a physical player who was able to score because of the way I played," he said. "If I strayed away from being physical, my game suffered."

Neely finished his Bruins career with 344 goals and 590 points in 525 regular-season games. He also racked up 921 penalty minutes.

"At times I wish I could still play," Neely said. "I'd like to go out there and bang bodies. It was nice to be able to do that legally for years."

Neely is also Boston's leading playoff scorer with 55 goals. The Bruins made the Stanley Cup Finals twice during his tenure, losing to the Edmonton Oilers both times.

His number joined Eddie Shore (2), Lionel Hitchman (3), Bobby Orr (4), Aubrey "Dit" Clapper, Esposito (7), John Bucyk (9), Milt Schmidt (15), Terry O'Reilly (24) and Ray Bourque (77).

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press