Happy Van City memories for three Bruins

Bruins forward Milan Lucic is congratulated by teammates the Bruins scored against the Lightning...

Bruins forward Milan Lucic is congratulated by teammates the Bruins scored against the Lightning during Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference final in Tampa, Fla., May 19, 2011. (MIKE CARLSON/Reuters)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:47 AM ET

VANCOUVER - As the Boston Bruins' team charter started its descent into Vancouver Monday afternoon, the memories came flooding back for three men looking through the plane's windows at the snow-capped mountains below.

For team president Cam Neely, this was where he grew up, the place where he started his NHL career before being traded to the Bruins.

For rugged winger Milan Lucic, this was also home and the city where he played his junior hockey for the WHL's Vancouver Giants.

And for skilled forward Patrice Bergeron, this was where, just 15 months earlier, he had wrapped himself in the flag after helping Team Canada win Olympic gold.

In every Stanley Cup final, there are plenty of stories of prodigal sons returning home. But in this instance, with the puck set to drop between the Canucks and Bruins Wednesday night, the Vancouver connection for these three Bruins means just a bit more.

Especially for Neely.

Having spent his childhood in nearby Maple Ridge, young Cam was dealt by the Canucks to the Bruins in 1986, along with a first-round pick in '87 (used to select defenceman Glen Wesley), for forward Barry Pederson.

Neely went on to the Hall of Fame.

Pederson didn't.

Now Neely is back on the left coast trying to win a Stanley Cup as a team executive, something he could not accomplish as a player.

All that stands in his way are the Canucks, "the team I grew up cheering for."

"It's exciting to be here again," Neely said Tuesday. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out well for me (with the Canucks), but things worked well in Boston. I certainly kept tabs on what happened to the Canucks over the years, of course -- except when they played us."

In an interesting twist to this story, June 6 -- aka Monday -- will mark the 25th anniversary of the day Neely was shipped to Boston by the Canucks.

It is also his birthday.

And, as the icing on the cake, it is the date of Game 3 of this Stanley Cup final, a contest that will be held at Boston's TD Garden.

"When I saw that date, it was an interesting birthday gift that I was given," Neely chuckled. "I don't know if it was from the Canucks or Boston when I got traded.

"Yeah, Game 3. That will be an exciting day, for sure."

Tuesday was certainly an exciting day for Lucic. When the local kid stepped onto the Rogers Arena ice for the Bruins' afternoon practice, his uncle, a handful of cousins and a number of friends were in the stands cheering him on.

"Obviously (my family is) excited," Lucic laughed. "It's going to save them money, they don't have to fly anywhere for the first two games. I think they're happy about that. But they'd be happy no matter who we're playing ... they're (just) happy and excited to see their son playing here at Rogers Arena for the Stanley Cup.

"As a kid growing up, a guy I really looked up to and watched a lot was Todd Bertuzzi. He was a really great player, probably the best. Playing that power forward role, he was someone I could easily look up to."

For Bergeron, a native of the Quebec City area, there are no childhood recollections of Vancouver like those of Neely and Lucic. But his memory of this area is just as special -- capturing an Olympic title.

"Obviously having a chance to win a gold medal on Canadian soil in Vancouver was something special I'll never forget," Bergeron said. "At the same time we have a job to do."

Indeed, come Wednesday, all the sentimentality will fade for these three Bruins.

The only thing that matters once the puck is dropped is the score.

Game on.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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