Tuesday night, emcee Michael Holley’s question was quickly answered with the flicker of the TD Banknorth Garden’s video screens and a glowing highlight reel of Cam Neely, long-time Bruins forward, Hockey Hall of Famer and current B’s Vice President.
Along with such greats as former Boston Celtic John Havlicek and New England Patriots alum Irving Fryar, Neely was recognized Tuesday night at the annual Tradition ceremony presented by The Sports Museum.
The event attracted all manner of Boston fans, as well as sports heroes to support the honorees -- including renowned basketball coach Bobby Knight, former Patriot and NFL Hall-of-Famer Andre Tippett, and Red Sox legend John Pesky.
After receiving his honors, Neely sat down with hosts Dale Arnold and Michael Holley, as well as current Bruin, Milan Lucic
, who was given the honor of presenting Cam’s award. Aside from praising Cam’s efforts as a player, and of course, touting him as the first ever hockey “power forward,” the talk soon turned to his own experience in coming to Boston.
Neely said, “I knew I was coming to a great city, steeped in tradition, especially with hockey – an original six team.”
All of that made him fear he might not ever make it to the big leagues, and made Neely all the more hungry to play as hard as he could. Once he was in the NHL, his approach to the game was simple, “I always want to win, (so) and I always wanted to play to win.”
Throughout the night, a recurring theme was addressed at The Tradition. All of the Boston sports teams have one characteristic over most of their opponents: a rich history.
As honoree Fryar put it, “Sports are the heartbeat of this city. People run as the sports run.”
Because of this history, teams have legends to look up to and emulate. More than that, they feel that they ought to make their own mark on history. Former Pats wide receiver Michael Timpson, who was on hand to present the Football Legacy Award to Fryar, articulated this well when he said that, “Tonight is all about legacy. Everyone wants to leave a legacy, to be remembered by something.”
Furthermore, Havlicek said his primary concern in coming to Boston was that he “be a player that people would be proud of” particularly because of the strength and the history of the Celtics organization.
With the recent completion of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and the quickly approaching Bruins Development Camp, it seems a certainty that this heightened atmosphere of past and present dominance in Boston sports will really encourage upcoming prospects, particularly since their roommates in the Garden will add a 17th banner to the rafters in the Fall.
Just last week, B’s third round pick, goalie Michael Hutchinson
, echoed a young Neely when he said he was especially thrilled to come and develop here because Boston was “a team with such a great history.”
Now, more than ever, as Boston fans call for a Black & Gold resurgence, and there is extra motivation for this season to reflect the excellence of five Stanley Cups from the past.
Director of Development for the Boston Bruins Foundation Bob Sweeney, a Massachusetts native steeped in the tradition of the Black & Gold, thinks this motivation is perfect for the team. After citing recent examples of Boston championships, he was quick to point out “the Bruins are on the rise now, as well. They have a good, strong nucleus, and their future looks very bright.
“They’re the next one in line to win a championship.”
These days, many B’s players see themselves in the images of their predecessors and Tuesday Lucic remarked, “Getting to present this Hockey Legacy award to Cam is a huge honor for me. He’s a guy I really look up to.”
And why not?
Neely hasn’t stopped looking to add to that legacy.
“It has been too long since the Bruins have won the Stanley Cup,” said Neely during the ceremony. “To be able to be a part of a management team that hopefully puts together a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup is a challenge I certainly welcome.”