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Cup victory brings Neely's career full circle

VANCOUVER -- Cam Neely spent last week celebrating his 46th birthday and the 25th anniversary of a trade that sent him to Boston and kick-started a career that landed him in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Now in his fourth year as an executive for the Bruins, he had a chance to celebrate again Wednesday night -- this time lifting the Stanley Cup for the first time in his long and illustrious career.

"I thought (the Stanley Cup) was going to be heavier, but then I thought maybe it was because I've got so much adrenaline pumping through my body," Neely said after the Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. "It is hard to put into words how it feels."

Neely was born in Comox, B.C., on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. He began his NHL career in this city, playing for the Canucks for three seasons before being dealt to Boston on his 21st birthday.

He played 10 seasons for the Bruins, reaching the Cup Final in 1988 and 1990 but never winning the championship. Neely went into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005 and rejoined the Bruins in 2007 as a vice president before being elevated to president before this season.

"It is pretty special. It is almost like coming full circle," Neely said. "This is where I started as a pro. It is really hard to believe. I feel beyond fortunate to have friends and family here and to be here and be able to lift the Cup. If it wasn't going to be in Boston, this is not a bad place for me."

Neely scored 344 goals for the Bruins, and his No. 8 hangs from the rafters at TD Garden. He and Ray Bourque were the faces of the franchise during an era when the Bruins were consistently a Cup contender but were unable to break through.

As a team executive Neely has remained a visible member of the organization -- especially for his emotional reactions while watching games from above the ice.

"I don't recall it being like that when I was playing. I'm mentally fried," Neely said. "You watch these guys battle and go through what they go through. What it takes to win this thing and guys playing hurt and competing the way they did. It certainly is draining -- physically for the guys who are playing and mentally for us in the suits.

"It means a great deal to the fans. We still had fans that remembered, barely, 1972 and then from '72 on they've been waiting for this moment to happen. I'm thrilled for them. We have amazing fans in Boston and they've supported us through thick and thin for many years. It is something they deserve."