Bruins president Cam Neely was known throughout his playing career as someone who would bring a certain type of physicality to his game. As president of the club he once skated for, Neely has tried to bring the same type of mentality to his work in the Boston front office.
In recent days, the Bruins have been all over hockey headlines, thanks to their game with the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. Brad Marchand has been suspended for five games for a hit on Sami Salo, a hit that led both Canucks general manager Mike Gillis and head coach Alain Vigneault to come out and criticize both Marchand and the Bruins.
Neely made his weekly radio appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger and Massarotti Show. Perhaps his most pointed comments came when discussing those comments, particularly the ones from Vigneault, who called the Bruins’ assessment of Marchand’s hit “stupid.”
“I don’t really need to comment and have a response to Vigneault at all,” Neely began. “I don’t look at that as a hit, but somebody ducking.”
When pressed about Vigneault’s prediction that Marchand would eventually get his for the way he plays the game, Neely expressed some disappointment in Vigneault’s position and the fact that he made that position public.
“I think it’s irresponsible,” offered Neely. “The league had enough issues in recent history where coaches shouldn’t be making comments like that, especially about other players in that fashion. I would assume or expect something like that to draw the attention with the league and have a conversation with their coach.”
Neely also spoke about how the way the Bruins try to conduct themselves when dealing with the same types of things. He spoke about how the B’s try to just move on from disciplinary decisions, deal with them and do what they can going forward.
“Well that’s how I like to us to do our business here,’” he said. “It’s no different when you’re a player on the ice and a ref calls a penalty you don’t agree with. You can whine and cry all you want, but you have to go to the box and serve your penalty. … I don’t think there’s ever been a penalty called on the ice where a player complain and referee says “Oh, my bad, I won’t give you a penalty anymore.’
“It does you no good. We certainly try to make sure we keep it internal if we don’t like those types of decisions.”
The conversation also turned to what can happen to the Bruins when their aggressive style of play ends up turning into power plays for the opposition, as it did Saturday, eventually burning the Bruins. Neely responded by saying that he felt there were some questionable calls early on during Saturday’s game, but he also said he doesn’t want his team to change the way they play.
“The retaliatory-type penalties or infractions are the ones [referees] see. We’ve said for years we want to initiate, not retaliate. For the most part, we’re a team that initiates, not retaliates and we’re successful because of it.
“It’s not our problem if other teams have a problem with that. It’s not our problem it other teams get frustrated with that.”
Of course, Neely also touched on the confrontation between Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton and Vancouver’s Dale Weise. The two looked to be ready to go late in the first period, but when Thornton dropped his gloves, Weise skated backwards presumably in an attempt to draw a penalty on Thornton. Both picked up penalties.
“You can guess my thoughts on that,” Neely told Felger and Massarotti. “If you’re gonna give an indication that you’re gonna drop your gloves and go, you drop your gloves and go. If not, the rest of the league sees it and realizes what type of player you are.”
Neely admitted that he didn’t think Marchand’s suspension would be as severe as it was, but he did admit that he thinks that NHL vice president of safety Brendan Shanahan and his department have done a good job of trying to police the league, at least when it comes to high hits.
“We all know it’s a difficult job. One thing I like about the department is they’ve got players in there who played a physical-style game … I think they can appreciate that aspect of the game. The biggest thing is they’re trying to protect the players from each other. Hopefully some day the players will realize that they have to protect themselves from each other.
“They have a difficult job, and they do a good job.”