saints or sinners?

In the same vein as Jay Leno's perennial question "straight or gay" (lest it is "gay or straight" - who cares in this P.C. world anymore - eh? It is a funny segment on Leno's show) - let us thoroughly analyze now the qualities and the faults of many an illuminary... shall we? Ok? Good! ~ NOTA BENE: perhaps because of the subject matter, this blog is neither perfect with IE, nor with Firefox!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cam "The Man" Neely

Simply the best prototypical power forward of all time!

He scored!
He brawled!
He passed the puck!
He powered his way to the net - and left a trail of bodies on his way there!
He intimidated!
He overpowered!
He beat them all!
He was the MAN!
Finesse plays,
whamming and banging,
crashing the net, NEELY DID IT ALL - for
he was the true
prototypical power forward - not Brett Hull, not anybody else!
And no one has yet really replaced him since 1995...

Cam Neely truly did it all - every single time he laced up a pair of skates, he would give it his all and every coach he ever had could testify to that.
And he did it his own way too - as he was the FIRST "power forward"! Before him, the appellation did not exist! As Don Cherry said, "he put the POW in power forward!" - and Grapes would usually add "Cam Neely - you gotta love him!"
Indeed! Don's pup, Blue, sure did love him too!
Neely was forced into early retirement though - because not everyone loved him! He was single-handedly defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1991 playoffs - outshining the so-called "magnificent one" himself, Mario Lemieux. There was no stopping Neely - whereas, finesse/spineless ones like Mario can always be solidly checked and thus discouraged (not too often though and not too violently, or their teams will send the goon of service to "protect" their guy... Although, to tell the truth, Neely didn't fear such developments - in fact, he thrived on them, partly! He would take care of any goon that came his way) - Neely kept on putting them in the net for the Bruins against the Pens with disarming ease!
So, what did the Penguins coach, Badger Bob, do? He did not dispatch the goon on Neely - Cam was outscoring their star! To have Cam beat up their goon on top of that would have signaled complete dominance of ONE MAN over an entire team of mere "contenders" or really pretenders as they were then... Badger Bob decided to go lower than that - he dispatched Ulf Samuelsson, a lowly talentless defenseman, to do the dirty work. Hit Neely IN THE KNEE - from behind.
A no-no in hockey. A low blow by any other name, in any other field. Neely was ordered injured as a last resort for a coach who desperately wanted to win one before he DIED. (Somehow, he knew that this was his only shot to win - as he would die of cancer shortly thereafter.)
Neely would never be the same player again.
But he was even BETTER for a short time, immediately after his return...
He came back from the injury but he could not play every day - he would only play every other game. Still, he would score 50 goals in 49 games like that - still the greatest comeback bid in recent NHL history and, I say, ever! The picture above shows Cam in "revenge" mode - roughing up Ulf Samuelsson in 1993 if I am not mistaken - the year that the Bruins should have gone all the way... but were robbed again, three times in overtime in a series they should have taken with ease.
Such high theft and grand larceny in trifecta was committed by another team than Pittsburgh, at least...
The loss would be one too many though, as Neely's days as a player were numbered.
Deep down, everyone knew that, I guess. All the more reason to remember, I say...
And Neely could not possibly forget who had shortened his career - and why.
Hence, Cam Neely doesn't forget - like me. He had all the reasons to harbor a grudge. And the only reason he did not beat up Badger Bob too - was because Bob was no longer alive! That's why!
The knee injury soon gave birth to complications - the thigh became his problem and, much sooner than it logically should have been, Neely had to retire.
The picture at the top is from his sad press conference in 1996, where he made the announcement that he was not going to play anymore. An emotional Neely was forced to walk away from the game that he loved - and the departure was visibly painful.

Cam Neely propelled the Boston Bruins into contender status - past hated rivals such as the Montreal Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres. Cam Neely was a player with a whole lot of heart and natural-born scoring talent that only became evident once in Boston, the team he was born to play for.
Cam Neely was THE MAN!
He would be thwarted by the many adversaries who envied him, and cheated him from his rightful place as Stanley Cup champion. Those in the know sure do know better than that though. Cam is a greater champion than sissy Mario, Gretzky, Messier and Lindros! A greater champion than that Crosby kid will ever be too... And even a greater one than Phil Esposito himself, who did win the Cup twice for Boston. Phil never had to come back from a nearly-crippling injury as Cam had to... Neely showed more heart than even Phil, who "would have killed to win" against the Russians in 1972. Neely would not kill - he would simply have sent them flying, whoever stood in his way, and scored goal after goal after goal...!
And, in the end, they would not let him do even that.
How could they - they who do not know the meaning of "fair play"...
Everyone's in it for themselves and everyone wants to win - but DECENCY has its place too, even in contact sports, yes! But faced with a gritty talent who can do it all, they have to take him out maliciously and not even allow him to compete, lest he beats you... fair and square!
How could they NOT be envious and devious, hence, when faced with a Neely?

Today, Cam Neely remains the same simple guy - life has been good to him, despite several stiff blows (such as losing both parents to cancer, back-to-back... And the knee/thigh injury/saga, of course...)
Neely remains associated with the Boston Bruins and, in fact, was instrumental in convincing Zdeno Chara to sign with the team in 2006.
Neely holds minimal grudges, despite all that was done to him...
I dunno - seems to me that this is as close as one can get to sainthood in the sometimes brutal NHL...

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