Beyond the Bruins, Neely is truly an American icon

“Cam has been very successful in his charitable work. He’s raised a tremendous amount of money for a great cause. And through that process he’s acquired a business acumen and an understanding of this community – the people and the fans of this community – so very well that he is perfectly suited for the job he’s about to do and has been doing,” said Sinden, who is a previous Lester Patrick winner. “On top of that, the bottom line for these people in top management – Peter Chiarelli, Claude Julien, Jim Benning and of course the president – is who can play and who can’t play. And Cam Neely, in my short discussions with him over the last couple years, convinces me that he knows that. That’s kind of the bottom line for all of the top management people, and it looks like we have a real good one.”

It takes one to know one in the personnel assessment business. Sinden remains one of the greatest hockey minds ever. You can criticize the way he went about the business side of the game, but few general managers would’ve had the foresight to trade Phil Esposito for Brad Park, Ken Hodge for Rick Middleton and, of course, Barry Pederson for Neely.

It’s difficult to imagine what would’ve have happened had Sinden not swung that trade.

“If I hadn’t made that trade, I would’ve been probably an advisor to the owner a lot earlier,” said Sinden, joking about the role he now holds. “But that was obviously … unfortunately for Cam first, Bruins fans second and the fans third, that was one of the most devastating injuries that Cam and the franchise and the people of this community have taken [that ended his career at 31]. But what he did in what is a relative short time for a career is incredible. And what he’s done as representative of the team and the sport in this community, he’s up there with any athlete we have in town.”

Said Neely: “The only conclusion that I can come up with is that I probably wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I did [without the trade to Boston]. What I would’ve been able to accomplish is impossible to say. Maybe if I went to another team, maybe something similar would’ve happened and turned out. Obviously coming here was the best thing at the best time for me.”

To measure the impact Neely has had on a fan base, and the country as a whole, go to any Bruins game – home or away. Search the stands for those in black-and-gold t-shirts and jerseys. You’ll see your share of current players’ names on the backs, you’ll see some that say Bourque and some that say Orr. And you’ll also see plenty of ones that read Neely. Regardless of age or background, if you’re a Bruins fan, you’re a Neely fan – both because of what he accomplished as an individual and because he is the personification of what it means to be a Boston Bruin.

“It’s flattering, there’s no question,” said Neely about the adulation he still encounters on a daily basis. “I’ve been very fortunate to have this type of relationship that I do with our fans and I appreciate the fact that they liked the way I played the game and what I stood for. I retired in ’96, so to see that still happening is flattering.”

For everything he has accomplished and plans to do in the future, the U.S. should be flattered that Neely deemed this country worthy of even part of his citizenship.

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