"He's made a tremendous impact on hockey in this region that's for sure," said Sinden. "You know, following Bobby [Orr] who made a similar type impact, Cam has, I think, from the standpoint of hockey and the Bruins, impacted how people and kids think about the game and how they play the game.
"What kind of person he was, what kind of [role] model he was as an athlete, I think from all of those standpoints Cam Neely has had...and continues to make an impact of the sport.
"And in New England, [where interest in hockey] has always been high, Cam kept it there and raised it and will continue to do so."
Neely, college coaching legends Jack Parker and Jerry York and AHL President David Andrews were named recipients of the 2010 Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States and were honored during a presentation in TD Garden on Thursday night.
The award, one of the most prestigious in hockey, was presented to the National Hockey League by the New York Rangers in 1966. It honors the memory of Lester Patrick, who spent 50 years in hockey as a player, coach and general manager and was a pioneer in the sport’s development.
Neely, now the president of the Boston Bruins, seemed a little taken aback by his being named a recipient of the Lester Patrick Award and was also clearly touched when he learned that his former GM had invoked the name of Bobby Orr when talking about Neely's impact on the game in Boston.
After all, all Neely did was play hockey the way it was supposed to be played -- hard.
"I've always said this even when I played you may not play well every game but you can work hard every game," said Neely of his personal philosophy -- an attitude that led him to legendary status with the Boston Bruins and the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"Even in everyday life you may not get the results you want but you can certainly work hard," said Neely. "I think that's what our fans expect.
"I mean they go and work hard to earn their paycheck and they want their athletes to do the same."
To hear Sinden talk about Neely, it seems like the new Bruins president is a perfect example of a Lester Patric recipient.
"What he did in what is a relatively short time for a career is incredible and [how] he has done as a representative of the team and of the sport and this community, I mean he is right up there with any athlete we have in town," said Sinden, who also lauded Neely's many admirable deeds off the ice and outside the rink.
"Cam has been very successful in his charitable works," explained Sinden. "He's raised a tremendous amount of money
"Through that process he has acquired a business acumen in this community and and [serves] the people and the fans of this community so very well that he is perfectly suitable for the job he is about to do and has been doing."
And, according to Sinden, Neely simply knows the game of hockey.
"That's kind of the bottom line for all of the top management people and I think it looks like we got a real good one," said Sinden.
Asked about the little boys and girls who were inspired to pick up skates, stick and a number-8 jersey and play hockey because of his example, Neely said, ""Yeah it's kind of a special
"I was one of those kids when I was younger playing street hockey and playing minor league hockey and I wore a certain number because of certain players that I liked to watch and I admired, too.
"So, it's kind of a special feeling that there have been kids...that have done the same for me."