Eighth wonder

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:47 PM ET

To this day it remains a leading candidate for worst trade in NHL history: Vancouver GM Harry Neale ships a 21-year-old named Cam Neely, and a first round pick (Glen Wesley) to Boston for Barry Pederson.

Doh!

Nineteen years later, his No. 8 retired in Boston and his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame secured, Neely reflected on the deal that changed his life, and the course of two hockey teams so dramatically.

"I certainly wasn't expecting it,'' Neely said on an NHL conference call before his Hall of Fame induction Monday. "Never saw it coming, and subsequently didn't really know what to expect once I got to Boston. No idea that my career would have turned out the way that it did playing in Boston for those 10 years.''

Neely was a fledgling winger in Vancouver, stuck behind Stan Smyl and Toni Tanti, but Boston was a perfect fit. He was a tough, blue-collar player, cut from the Terry O'Reilly mould, in a town that loved tough blue collar players.

"I think I just got a great opportunity right from day one in training camp in '86 to really either play well or not play well,'' said Neely, who would retire, prematurely, due to a calcium buildup in his thigh, with 694 points in 13 seasons.

"I played with some of the top players right from the get-go of training camp and as time went on, got more and more confidence.

"And obviously the style that I played was very well suited to the Boston Garden, the old Boston Garden, so I don't think that hurt at all.''

It was a 180-degree turnaround from Vancouver, where he was a bit player. Of course, it's harder to develop young talent on a mediocre team.

"I think I played more in my rookie year in Vancouver than I did my third year. It was just a tough situation. The Canucks were always struggling to make the playoffs ... and then we always either had to face Edmonton or Calgary which we didn't fare too well.''

He'd run into Edmonton again in two Stanley Cup finals, but his team didn't fare too well there, either.

"Quite honestly, Edmonton was a much better hockey club in '88 than we were,'' he said. "But in '90, I thought that we had a good opportunity to beat the Oilers. We had that triple-overtime game that everybody remembers. Wesley had an opportunity, unfortunately shot it over the net. And then (Petr) Klima comes out and scores and kind of took the wind out of our sails.''

Neely is still bothered by a sore hip, and will require hip replacement surgery later in life, but doesn't spend any time feeling sorry for himself or wondering what might have been.

"Listen, the way that I played the game, it would be shocking if I didn't have some injuries, and that's the only way that I could play the game. I enjoyed playing that way.

"I'm not going to sit here and say it wasn't difficult to walk away from the game. It was extremely difficult to walk away from the game when I felt that I could still play at a high level. So that took a few years.

"But just like anything, any athlete that is forced to retire will tell you, only time makes things better.''

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TEE'S TOP FIVE

In light of Jacques Demers' recent confession that he's illiterate, here are five other afflictions in the NHL:

1 - ALEXEI YASHIN - has an undersized heart.

2 - SEAN AVERY - has weakness of the spine.

3 - DON CHERRY - is colour-blind.

4 - TODD BERTUZZI - has amnesia.

5 - RICK NASH - is cursed.

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TEE'S TEAM OF THE WEEK

C - ERIC STAAL (CAROLINA): Thirteen points in his last five games.

LW - DANY HEATLEY (OTTAWA): Has a 12-game point scoring streak on the go.

RW - DANIEL ALFREDSSON (OTTAWA): Six goals, six assists, plus-11 since Oct. 5

LD - LUBOMIR VISNOVSKY (L.A. KINGS): Scores hat-trick against Dallas to increase point total to 18.

RD - WADE REDDEN (OTTAWA): The season is 12 games old and he's plus 15.

G - JASON LABARBERA (L.A. KINGS): Goaltending was supposed to be LA's weakness. He's 7-1 with a 1.70 GAA.

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TEE'S QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"It's great. My own room on the road and all it cost me was a million dollars.''

- Oiler Todd Harvey joking about the fact players with 600 NHL games now get their own rooms on the road.


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