Boston, MA --
The tough but beloved Bruin that received this year’s NESN 7th Player Award was back in town earlier this week. And the B’s no-longer-rookie left wing, Milan Lucic
, introduced Cam Neely at the annual Tradition ceremony Tuesday night.
Lucic, who is frequently compared to the great number 8, was very excited to be a part of the event and to able to present Neely with the Hockey Legacy Award. The budding power forward also had the chance to talk to Boston sports legends such as the Boston Celtics John Havlicek and the New England Patriots Irving Fryer.
“It is a huge honor anytime you get to do something like this and be a part of something that (celebrates) a legend like Cam, a Hall of Famer,” he said. “He was a bit of a mentor for me this year and I am real happy to be around for this.”
As such, it certainly didn’t take Neelyesque intimidation to get Lucic on a plane to Boston for the annual event hosted by the Sports Museum. When asked if he would do the honor, the young man’s response was simple.
“When and where?” he asked.
Despite the comparisons to Neely, Lucic tries not to let the pressure get to him by just not thinking about it.
“Those are some pretty big shoes to fill,” he said. “I just try to play my game and be myself more than try to be Cam Neely.
“I try to create my own type of style.”
Lucic uses his physicality to create a presence every time he hits the ice and although he tries to create his own unique style, it is hard for B’s fans to ignore the resemblance between Lucic and Neely’s physical play.
The B’s super soph agrees that playing with that competitive edge and physical style is what really ignites the comparison between the two.
“(Both of us) are not scared to drop the gloves,” Lucic said. “But it is also about being able to play the game of hockey.
“(Neely) was one of the best players out there.
“He was a hitter and a physical presence, but he was also reliable, playing big minutes and scoring goals,” he said.
Lucic was happy with many aspects of his game this past season, but he hopes to improve on the score sheet.
“I didn’t have a bad year, points wise,” he said. “I did pretty well for a (rookie) 19-year old and not knowing what to expect coming in.
“But next year, I am setting a lot higher goals.”
His goals for next season are definitely lofty – but certainly attainable.
“I want to build from what I did last year,” Lucic explained. “If you want to look at it individually, I scored 8 goals and 19 assists, and I would like to try and double it in both departments.
“That is probably a good goal.
“And then have about 10-15 fights, maybe even more,” he added with a laugh.
Neely is looking forward to witnessing Lucic’s progress and the Bruins VP explained to the fans in attendance at The Tradition that if you are able to garner more time and space on the ice, you are going to get more chances.
“It is going to be very exciting to watch Milan over the next few years develop as a hockey player,” Neely added.
For his part, Lucic just wants to keep the development rolling.
“I want to be in the same role all season long as I was in the end (of this past season),” he said. “It was real fun playing with (Marc Savard
) and (Glen Murray) at the end of the year and playing those big minutes in the playoffs.
“It was a great feeling being in the playoffs, so you want to try and do everything you can to get back (there).”
No one will argue that it would be great to see Lucic achieve his goals, but the fans around the Hub of Hockey were more than happy with his early successes. The young heavyweight had no problem fitting in with the Boston faithful and soon became a fan favorite.
“Obviously, this past season went pretty well,” Lucic said with a grin. “If you asked me if I thought I was going to be here all year, I probably would have said that the Bruins were going to send me back down.
“But I am happy that they decided to keep me.”
So is most of Boston.
“I am happy about how things went and how they progressed as the season went on,” continued Milan. “For me, I just have to work hard this summer to make sure that things keep getting better and better with me and the Bruins.”
Cam Neely agreed.
“Milan is the type of player that everybody epitomizes as a Boston Bruin,” he said. “He works hard; he is a great kid and has great character. He progressed a ton this past season.
“He has a very physical presence (and) he is the type of player that we expect to see wear this uniform for a long time.”
When told what Neely had to say about him, Lucic just smiled.
“Obviously, I love it hear that,” he said. “And I hope that I wear a Bruins jersey for my whole career, however long it is – 15 years hopefully.
“I would love to be a Bruin my whole career, that’s for sure.”
The fans in New England would love it, too.