The Boston Bruins traded veteran Barry Pederson to the Vancouver Canucks in June of 1986 and at the time, without knowing it, received a future franchise icon in return. A 21-year-old, by the name of Cam Neely, was sent back to Boston along with a 1st round draft pick. The ultimate member of the Boston Bruins quickly became a franchise cornerstone. The Boston Bruins and Cam Neely are now synonymous with one another. His number eight hangs from the TD Garden rafters with other Bruins legends. Take a look back at Cam Neely’s career as a player and what he did that made him an icon in Boston forever.
A Look Back At Cam Neely’s Career
Neely was born June 6, 1965, in Comox, British Columbia. He grew up in both Maple Ridge, BC and Moosejaw, Saskatchewan where his father served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The 6’1 right wing played minor hockey with the Ridge Meadows Hockey Association. Neely played Midget “AAA” for Ridge Meadows Lightning in 1981-82 and posted phenomenal offensive numbers. He scored 73 goals and 68 assists for 141 points in 64 games played. He added 134 penalty minutes with his physical style of play. His Midget season put him on the radar of the Portland Winterhawks, where he suited up for the following season.
Portland Winterhawks and Cam Neely’s Career in the WHL
Following his successful season in Midget, Neely found himself playing junior hockey in the Western Hockey League. He played the 1982-83 season with the Portland Winterhawks.
Neely continued his impressive scoring touch posting 56 goals and 64 assists for 120 points in 72 regular season games. Portland was the host of the Memorial Cup that season and Neely helped guide them to win their first championship. He added 9 goals and 11 assists in 14 playoff games.
After his rookie junior season, the powerhouse prospect was drafted 9th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. He would begin the 1983-84 season in Portland, however, he played in only 19 games before being called up by the Canucks.
Despite his short time spent in the WHL, Cam Neely’s career was honoured during the 50th WHL season celebrations. Neely was named the 10th best WHL player of all time.
The Start of Cam Neely’s Career in the NHL
The 19 games played with Portland marked the end of the right-winger’s junior career. It also marked the beginning of Neely’s journey to becoming a Hall of Fame NHL player.
Making his NHL debut with Vancouver in the 1983-84 season, “Bam Bam Cam” played in 56 games. He scored 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points in his rookie season.
He would play two more seasons with the Canucks, putting up 39 points in 72 games during the 1984-85 campaign. In his final season with Vancouver, his production took a slight dip, posting 34 points in 73 games played.
Neely was seeing limited ice time during his tenure with the Canucks to go along with very little powerplay ice time. His fortunes would soon change as he reaped the benefits of a change of scenery.
The Trade That Changed Cam Neely’s Career
On his 21st birthday, Neely had a day to remember. The Canucks traded away the young power forward along with their 1987 first-round pick in exchange for Boston Bruins veteran Barry Pederson. Pederson produced consistent scoring in Boston and twice eclipsed 100 points during his time as a Bruin.
The trade gave Boston one of their most beloved players of all time in Neely. The first-round pick was used to draft defenceman Glen Wesley. Wesley would later on be traded to the Hartford Whalers with Boston receiving an absurd three years of 1st round picks. The trade tree continued to reward the Bruins for years to come.
Becoming an Icon, Cam Neely’s Career as a Bruin
In Neely’s first season as a Boston Bruin, he had a great increase in his production. Playing in 75 games he scored at just under a point-per-game pace with 72 points.
He would score his first NHL hat trick on February 7 1987 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was the first of 17 hat tricks Neely scored with the Bruins. The prolific power forward also notched a hat trick in the first game played in the Fleet Center, now known as TD Garden.
Neely was a force to be reckoned with on the ice. Known just as well for his punishing hits and physical play as he was for his scoring prowess. The Hall of Famer was also no stranger to dropping the gloves.
The ultimate Bruin scored back-to-back 5o goal seasons at the age of 24 and 25. He eclipsed the 90-point park in both of those seasons.
Devastating Knee Injury
During Game 3 of the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Ulf Samuelson delivered a cheap shot on Neely. The blooming superstar suffered a devastating knee injury as a result of the hit. He would play in just 22 games over the next two seasons. The knee injury Neely sustained from that hit ultimately caused a degenerative hip condition forcing him to retire at the age of 31.
50 in 50 club
At the age of 28, during the 1993-94 season, Neely joined Wayne Gretzky as just the second player to score 50 goals in 50 games. He lit the lamp 50 times in just 49 games. See each of the goals in this Cam Neely career highlights video.
Cam Neely’s Career Achievements
After spending 10 seasons with the Boston Bruins, Neely posted a stat line of 344 goals, and 246 assists for 590 points in a total of 525 games played. Neely was an NHL All-Star on four occasions. During his time in Boston, the Bruins would reach the Stanley Cup Finals twice, losing to the Edmonton Oilers both times. In 2004 the Boston Bruins retired Cam Neely’s number 8 making him just the 10th former Bruin to receive the honour. In 2005 the Bruin icon was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. Neely has an arena named after him in Maple Ridge, BC.
Cam Neely Foundation
Neely lost both of his parents to battles with cancer. He created the Cam Neely Foundation in 1995 serving as a means to help families and patients deal with the devastating diagnosis. The Neely house gives families a place to stay while patients are going through treatment. The foundation also provides funding for treatment. Since 1995 the Cam Neely foundation has raised $31 million for beating cancer.
Neely was appointed as Boston Bruins president of hockey operation in 2010. After his two Stanley Cup Finals appearances as a player, Neely finally got his championship ring in 2011 as part of the front office. The Bruins have been to the Stanley Cup Finals three times since Neely has been president.
After last season’s early playoff exit many fans have scrutinized some of Neely’s front office decisions. Deciding to keep GM Don Sweeney in the fold while factoring in the firing of head coach Bruce Cassidy has brought upon questions about Neely’s decision making.
It was one incredible career Bam Bam Cam put together and his style of play has forever been entwined with the identity of the Bruins. It is such a shame Neely was forced into retirement early. It’s only fair to say that all Bruins fans can agree Cam Neely is forever the ultimate Boston Bruin.
All stats for this article were found on HockeyReference.