Boston, MA --
|Coach Julien and Cam Neely chat before this year's State of the Bruins town hall meeting. |
At last Wednesday’s State of the Bruins Town Meeting at the TD Banknorth Garden, Cam Neely’s demeanor echoed one of the catchphrases being thrown around the Garden: “We want it as bad as you.”
In fact, Neely, who was greeted with a resounding applause when he walked onstage, may want a successful Bruins franchise as much or more than the 700-plus season ticket holders who graced the stands that evening.
“I wanted to get a better understanding of what Peter’s vision was and his goals for the organization,” said Neely of his role as Vice President. “And I wanted to talk to the Jacobs family about what their commitment was to the win a championship.
“After the answers I received...I was excited to come back within the organization.”
Neely’s continued commitment to an improved Black & Gold is clear at all levels, from training facilities to pre-game pump-up shows. But, as a part of a very hard-working management team, his most pressing concern is the players and the attitude that they bring to the rink each day.
“I certainly don’t want our players to think that because it was a better year [last year] than it had been that it was a successful year, because it wasn’t,” he told the crowd. “We need our players to improve…we need them to come in here hungry.
“They need to come in here saying ‘I want to do better than I did last year’.”
Perhaps it’s Neely’s grounded but optimistic dedication to the Bruins that’ll make the difference in the eyes of the fans this season – looking to a legend to make legends.
Neely answered tough questions, more than any other panelist, like who’s going to score fifty goals this season, and how will the younger players step up, and when are alumni going to come back and show face (he’s working on that, too). But there was also plenty of laughter evoked by number eight, particularly when he playfully “revoked” the right of Montreal Canadiens fans to drink beer on Bruins’ turf.
But it wasn’t only the Black & Gold clad faithful walking away from the Garden Wednesday night pleased. Current Bruins players were happy to have shared the stage with Neely as well.
Three-time Stanley Cup champion Aaron Ward stressed how important it will be for Neely to remain a dominant presence in the locker room.
“We have the ability to understand a guy we can relate to,” said the veteran defenseman after the festivities. “A lot of times those guys (management) are schooled in business, and they have the experiences of the hockey world but haven’t always played themselves.
“It’s good to have a guy like Cam whose opinion is well-founded.”
If Neely, and the rest of the management team that he so willingly represents, can continue to please their audience throughout the season, the Garden will certainly, as one fan put it, “be rockin’ day in and day out,” just like the old Garden did when Neely was in his prime.