Cam Neely - Perseverance
Neely sat out much of the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons dealing with his injuries. He admits that not being able to play drove him crazy at the time, but since he spent much of this period watching and studying games, he learned a great deal, particularly from studying the efficiency with which famed Boston defenseman Ray Borque did his job. Earlier in his career Neely had been famous for his dashing all over the ice, which was effective—in two of his seasons with the Bruins before his injury, Neely had reached the fifty goal mark—but not very efficient.
Armed with this new "work smarter, not harder" philosophy, Neely returned to the Bruins lineup at the end of the 1992-93 season and almost immediately established himself as a star. He scored his first goal less than five minutes into his first game back in early March of 1993, and by the end of the season, despite only playing in thirteen games, he had racked up twenty-two goals. In the 1992-93 season, Neely scored fifty goals in his first forty-four games, putting himself in an exalted category with Mario Lemieux, who also reached fifty goals in forty-four games, and Wayne Gretzky, who did it in thirty-nine.
Neely's 1992-93 season also ended in injury, when he tore a ligament in his knee. He came back and had two more solid seasons, but then arthritis in his right hip forced him to retire in 1996. He acknowledged to himself that it was over when he pulled up lame after an impromptu foot race with a ten-year-old relative: "I kind of realized that if I can't run to the corner, I probably can't play professional hockey," Neely was quoted as saying in the Buffalo News. He briefly attempted a comeback in 1998, after rest and intensive rehabilitation had improved his knee and hip, but after only three practices the pain proved too great and he retired for good.