The record book will remember Cam Neely for his three seasons of 50 or more goals and all the rest of the numbers he piled up, including 57 goals in 93 playoff games, the bulk of those credentials built over his 10 seasons as a Bruins right winger.
But it takes the tale of the tape, the videotape, to capture the true essence of Neely and why he was named yesterday to the Hockey Hall of Fame. In his prime, which was shortened by injuries, he was the game's mightiest force -- dynamic on his skates, powerful with his shot, and often a raging, runaway locomotive when it came time to execute bodychecks or deliver an even more physical message.
''I knew from an early age where it came from," said Neely, pondering a question about the origin of his playing rage, one he ultimately said must be traced to his DNA. ''My brother [Scott] will attest to that."
Neely, out of the game now for nearly 10 years, ultimately hobbled by hip and thigh injuries, was the highest-profile name among the three new inductees named by the Hall. The late Valeri Kharlamov, the great forward with the Russian Red Army team who was killed in a car crash in 1981, was the only other player chosen by the Toronto-based Hall's selection committee. Another former Bruin, Murray Oliver, an ex-president of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Assocation, was named to the builder's section.
Neely, whose induction will come only one year after former teammate Ray Bourque was honored by the Hall, will be formally presented in ceremonies on Nov. 7. It will be official when he slips on the Hall's trademark blue sportsjacket, then the ring, and finally when he uses his left hand to scrawl his name in the Hall's official ledger.
''It's been a whirlwind day," said Neely, all smiles late yesterday afternoon when he met with the media on Causeway Street, the setting of the majority of his accomplishments. ''I don't think it's going to sink in for a while."
Neely, who turned 40 on Monday, was joined at the podium by his wife and two children. A huge round banner with his name, centered by his No. 8, served as the backdrop. It was the same banner he raised to the Vault's ceiling in January of last year when the Bruins retired his number.
''He was a power forward. He was physical. He was a fighter," said Bruins general manager Mike O'Connell, asked why the game has not seen the likes of Cameron Michael Neely over the last decade. ''He was the complete player. I don't think we see a player [today] like that because that was him, and that's why he's in the Hall now. He skated. He hit. He scored. He fought. He stuck up for his teammates.
''That's three or four players right there -- and he did it all in one."
Neely was playing golf yesterday at the TPC Boston course in Norton, a round he scheduled days earlier with business associates, according to his longtime confidant and agent, Jay Fee. Ever the eye for detail (especially if it meant the slightest bit of open space for shooting), Neely noted that he was on the 17th hole when he turned on his cellphone, only to find a voice-mail message to call Jim Gregory, the Hall's affable chairman of the selection committee.
''I was about to hit an approach shot," added Neely, ''and that became very difficult after that."
Gregory, upon getting the return call from Neely, quizzed the caller. ''Cam," he asked, ''do you know what my part-time job is?" Welcome to the Hall, said Gregory, who relishes his part-time role as the august institution's official greeter and good-will ambassador.
Decked out in a long-sleeve blue shirt and light-colored linen pants, the 6-foot-1-inch Neely looked slightly heavier than in his playing days (a ripped 218 pounds), but still appeared young and able enough to take another shift up the right side of the Vault. Those days ended long ago, although he made a brief comeback attempt about three years following his retirement. His hip proved to be too stubborn, less than a week into training camp, and he was forced to call it quits for good.
Unlike other recent years, when he was eligible, Neely got caught up a little in the pre-selection hype in recent days. Tuesday night, when reached by a Globe reporter, he said the ''vibe" was different this year. And despite a promise to himself that he would sleep well as the clock ticked down to decision hour, he admitted at the press conference that it had proven to be a restless night.
''It seemed like there were more comments in the media than in the past," he explained. ''It just seemed to get brought up more -- not a great deal, but more. The six other years that I was eligible, the day came and went, and I just didn't give it much thought."
Support for Neely grew over time, in part because of how offensively starved the game has been in the years since he left. He starred in a time when the likes of Mario Lemieux and especially Wayne Gretzky obliterated the record books with their offense. As great and unique as he was, Neely never scored 100 points in a season (92 his high), while Messrs. Gretzky and Lemieux often hit the century mark, it seemed, right around New Year's each season.
The game coached and trapped to near death in recent years, and individual statistics plummeting across the board, Neely's totals nowadays edge toward the bloated side. The game also is, by and large, far tamer than when he played. There is still fighting, and there actually may be more hitting, when factoring in all the messy obstruction that is suffocating the NHL game. But there is no one fighting or hitting with the menace and might that Neely brought time and time again.
''I absolutely hate losing in anything I do," said Neely, further explaining how he learned to tap into his rage, use it to enhance his skills. ''I hate losing, more even that I like winning. I realized my temper helped me be a better player, but I had to learn to harness it, use it to my advantage."
Speed and strength and anger and rage, sometimes controlled and sometimes not, delivered some of the most exciting moments in Boston hockey history. And yesterday, all of that delivered Neely to Hockey's Great Hall.