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