If he closes his eyes and reflects on his 13-year career that came to a close yesterday, Cam Neely will have no snapshot of Ulf Samuelsson in his memory album.
``That’s really behind me,’’ said Neely, moments after making his farewell speech on Fleet Street yesterday. ``I’ve said it before, that I don’t have any respect for the way he plays, but like I say, that’s behind me now.
``I have too many good things to think about.’’
Despite the victim’s dismissal of the incident, Samuelsson’s hit on Neely in the 1991 Wales Conference finals between the Penguins and Bruins took its final toll when Neely stepped onto the podium and tearfully announced his retirement.
Save for some streaky and impressive scoring binges, Neely was never the same player after the Samuelsson hit.
Medical professionals now tell Neely that his deteriorating right hip is not related to the Samuelsson hit. It is essentially arthritis of the hip that ended his career, and doctors say there is no tracing its root cause back five years ago to the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. It would be difficult to convince most, if not all, Bruins fans that Neely’s hip condition isn’t related to the punishing Samuelsson blow.
``I’m told that’s not the reason,’’ said Boston president/general manager Harry Sinden.
``And I told the doctors that they don’t know what they are talking about. They say it’s degenerative, but . . . ‘’
Neely, 26 at the time of the hit, had just completed his second consecutive 50-goal season for the Bruins and was considered the game’s prototype right wing. His resultant hip and knee injuries limited him to only 22 regular-season games over the next two seasons.
Midway through last season, his right hip causing him constant pain, Neely learned that he will need hip replacement surgery, something he hopes to avoid until much later.
Samuelsson, now 32, remains one of the most feared hitters in the game and will be back this season with the New York Rangers, whom he joined before last season in an exchange with the Penguins.