Cam Neely becoming a Hall of Fame worthy Bruins president

Matt Kalman
May 24, 2019 - 5:24 pm

Bruins legend Cam Neely is becoming the model for all-time greats on the ice becoming front-office superstars as president of an organization.

Brendan Shanahan has played a prominent role in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ resurgence, but they haven’t gotten past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with him as president. Luc Robitaille’s tenure as president of the Los Angeles Kings has coincided with their recent struggles and imminent rebuild.

And then there’s Neely, who became vice-president of the Bruins in 2007 and ascended to the president’s office in 2010 after the collapse of that spring’s playoffs. When the Bruins face the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, which starts Monday, they’ll be competing for the Cup for the third time during his tenure, having won it in 2011.

As a player, Neely was a shooter and a scorer. But as a front-office type he’s eager to share the credit for Boston’s success.

“Well, you have to have some luck, but more importantly it’s having good people in place,” Neely said at a press conference Friday, the eighth day off before the Bruins resume playing against the Blues. “I’m not a micromanager. I want the people we hire to do their jobs, and if they don’t do their jobs then we’ll have a discussion. Or if they’re not doing their jobs to the best of their ability, then we’ll have a discussion, not unlike a coach talking to a player.

“For me, it’s about trying to find the best people and let them go to work and do their jobs. I think I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of really great people on the hockey side and a lot of really good people on the business side, so for me, it’s about having conversations. It’s not just about putting out fires. It’s about constant communication, conversations, whether it’s obviously with [GM] Don [Sweeney], the coaching staff. That’s one of the reasons I like to travel with them team because you have more opportunity to talk with players and coaches than you normally do at home.”

Among the decisions Neely’s made was the one to promote Sweeney from assistant GM to replace Peter Chiarelli in 2015. Neely’s also been directly involved in other matters, like the decision to have the Bruins join the Calgary Flames on a preseason trip to China. That trip, just like the Bruins’ season-opening venture to Prague to start the 2010-11 season, got the ball rolling on what’s turned into extremely tight bonds that have helped the Bruins get through adversity all season.

“Well, I always looked at it as a great opportunity for team building,” he said. “Although, we had a little bit of a split squad split coaching staff, but the guys that did go there I thought it was a great team-building experience, not unlike when we went to Ireland and Prague [in 2010]. It gave us an opportunity to get together as a group and be together as a group for a length of time that you don’t normally get in the preseason. You’re zipping in and out of cities, and to have that opportunity was great for the guys. And I give them credit because they really embraced it.”

If the China trip turns out to have the same meaning as the Prague trip – the start of a championship season – Neely will have two Cup rings as an executive after coming up short in two trips to the Final as a player.

“Well, if you can’t win it wearing skates, it’s OK in a suit,” he said.

It’s more than OK to win it in a suit. It’s another way to solidify Neely’s name as one of the greats in hockey with the ability to follow a tremendous playing career with a franchise-altering front-office reign.

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