And now, 25 years later, June 6 again looks to be a memorable date for Neely. His team will host their first Final game since 1990 - when Neely was still lacing up his skates as a Bruin. They’ll face off against the very team that sent him to Boston.
All Neely wants is a victory.
“Couldn’t ask for anything better today, to get back into the series, you know, to win this game would mean a great deal,” Neely said. “I can’t believe it’s been 25 years, it doesn’t seem like that long ago. Even though physically it probably does. But mentally it doesn’t seem that long ago.”
25 years is a long time, but not so long that Neely can’t recall what happened the day he began to carve his path to a Hall of Fame career. He remembers it vividly, telling the story with no hesitation. Neely’s path to the Hub, he says, began with an unlikely messenger.
“Well, I remember that it was pre cell phones and all that other stuff. And I was working out with some friends and my younger sister was the one that informed me about the trade,” Neely said. “That was a great day as well for me. I didn’t know how it was going to end up or what to expect, but it was great.”
It was the beginning of a lifelong career wearing a spoked-B. His first season on the ice for the Bruins, Neely led the club with 36 goals, posting 72 total points, a record of success that would follow him throughout his time on Boston’s roster.
Neely was named Vice President of the Bruins on September 2007. Three years later, on June 16, 2010, he was named President. Although he was done with the hard checks and competitive play on the ice, donning the role of a team official, he says, presented challenges of its own. Watching from afar isn’t easy.
“I try to do the best job I can controlling my emotions but I’m a pretty emotional guy, it’s just who I am,” Neely said. “It was much easier playing, controlling the emotions or at least doing something with those emotions.”
As he tries to control his emotions tonight, Neely will be sure of at least one thing: his players are prepared.
“These guys know what’s in front of them. The coaching staff does a good job of preparing these guys and they’ll come out hard and ready to play and I know the support locally is going to be fantastic,” Neely said. “The place is going to be loud and that’ll give the guys a little extra boost.” ---Elizabeth Traynor