Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hall of Fame honor

Persistence, we’ve all been told, will pay off. The point of that lesson was proved last night when Cam Neely, the famed Boston Bruins Hall of Famer, signed the 700th puck of my collection.

The puck, at left, commemorates the raising to the then-FleetCenter’s rafters Neely’s No. 8, which, in Beantown, stands for hard work, perseverance and true grit.

Numerous trips to the Bruins’ training camp, as well as a fruitful day hounding the New York Islanders during the team’s visit to Manchester, N.H., had put me within striking distance of my latest milestone. And building on a two-stop trip to Boston, on the day before the National Hockey League opened the 2005-06 season, I found myself needing just eight pucks to reach 700.

The Montreal Canadiens, in Boston to renew a bitter rivalry with their Original Six siblings, were predictably tough. Granted, most of the stars, namely Saku Koivu, Jose Theodore, Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder, did sign. As the team bus pulled away from the hotel, though, I found myself only two pucks shy of 700.

In light of last season’s lockout, the Bruins were making a big splash over the new season, hosting such Bruins legends as Milt Schmidt and Derek Sanderson. Neely, of course, was among them.

Though I knew my chances would be slim, I still brought a few pucks with me. As Neely was introduced, and made his way down the red carpet, he stopped to sign for fans. I reached in with my puck, but failed to get it signed.

Making my way down the line, I spied team owner Jeremy Jacobs chatting with fans. I pulled out a Bruins puck and asked him to sign. Not only did he happily oblige, and add the 699th to my collection (see posting below for picture), but he also told me that I might very well have the only puck he’s ever signed. That’s good information to have, eh?

The next thing I know, Neely’s standing in front of me, signing for a fan. I dig out the commemorative puck and reach toward him as the fan steps away. I tell him that the puck, if he signs, will be the 700th of my collection.

Thankfully, my persistence paid off.


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