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Instant Credibility: Just Add Cam

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
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Boston, MA -- On Tuesday, September 25th, Boston Bruins Executive Vice President Charlie Jacobs, with Chairman Jeremy Jacobs to his left, and with Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien joining them on dais, began his portion of the Bruins Annual Media Day press conference with some opening words. He then ushered in the newest member of the Boston Bruins staff, Cam Neely.

"We have had great success working with Cam the past few months," said Mr. Jacobs, explaining the hire. "And Cam, I am happy to announce today, is the new Vice President of the Boston Bruins."

There was, of course, no need to explain the Jacobs' reasoning for hiring one of the most beloved Bruins of all time -- cynics would say that it was simply a PR move.

Neely, a Hockey Hall of Famer whose number has been retired by the B's, created quite a buzz around Boston on Tuesday following the press conference. And for a few moments, just the mention of his name brought the words Boston Bruins back to the lips of the sports watching and listening public throughout New England.

The question an uninitiated person might ask, cynic or not, is "Why does the public believe, that just by his presence, the Bruins will be better?"

The answer is probably not found in Cam's stats, although they are impressive. Nor is the answer found in his considerable reputation, and there are those who consider him to be the ultimate Bruin.

No, the answer seems to be in the words of a person who many consider to be the honest, hard working hockey equivalent of the average blue collar New Englander. Those fans seem to see Cam as a nine-to-five guy, who just happened to be one of the best hockey players that they have ever seen.

Thus, Neely's appearance alongside Bruins management brought hockey talk back to WEEI and the B's back into the 6 o'clock newscasts -- for the right reasons.

People believe that anything Cam Neely associates with will eventually be a winner.

In Neely, and since his arrival from Vancouver in 1986, the hockey fans of Boston and the surrounding region have found a kindred spirit -- and since Cam endorses, and actually joined, the current management regime, there is at least a decent chance that the fans (even the cynics) might just find some credibility returning to the Hub of Hockey.

Following a round of applause from the media and staffers present in the TD Banknorth Garden's Legends restaurant, Neely spoke from the heart about his decision to rejoin the team.

"I am very excited about this opportunity to work with Peter (Chiarelli) and his staff, as well as Charlie (Jacobs)," said Neely. "I had numerous discussions over the summer with both Charlie and Peter about the direction of the franchise and their thoughts and beliefs on where they want this to go.

"I've been around here for twenty-plus years and I understand what the fans are looking for, as far as what they want from their team.

"And I'd like to help in any way that they ask," he said.

Cam began to explain what he thinks the New England hockey fan is looking for.

"My son is now playing youth hockey, so I know the passion of the hockey fan, and I've been talking to a lot of people throughout youth hockey and they're dying for this team to get back to where it has been in the past and hopefully that will happen very soon," said Neely. "I am really excited about the challenge."

He finished his explanation during a question and answer period.

"Quite frankly, I am not really happy with what has gone on, like most of the fans," as he further explained his reasons for joining the management team.

"(However,) Peter has been stressing that the team has to be harder to play against.

"And I've felt that for a long time and I think that the people who have been fans of the Bruins expect that -- they expect their teams to play that way," he said.

Neely explained his feelings about what the spoked-B represents.

"It hasn't happened so much in the (recent) past," admitted Neely. "And I think that it would be a big step in the right direction for the players to understand what it means to be a Bruin -- understanding the type of work ethic you have to have to play on this team, and I think that has been lost, a little bit.

"But I think that (being a Bruin) is coming to work hard every night.

"We all know the type of fan that Bruins fans are and what they expect, and I think the players have to understand what they have to do out there," Cam said.

Furthermore, Neely left large pieces of himself on the Boston Garden ice, including a recently replaced hip. What more credibility do the players need in terms of listening to a member of upper management?

"As I've always said when I was playing, you may not play well every night, but you can work hard every night."

Once thing seems to be certain, if anyone wearing Black & Gold gives less than 100 percent, whether it is in the board room or on the ice, they know that not only is there a number 8 flying in the rafters above their heads as a symbol of what being a Bruin means, but chances are that number 8 is sitting nearby -- watching and looking to reinforce the workaday attitudes of a proud hockey franchise.
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