How NHL Legend Cam Neely Teamed Up with Denis Leary to Kick Cancer's Ass
You might think that a guy who spent a total of 143 minutes in the penalty box during one season of hockey might have somewhat less than a sparkling sense of humor, but you’d be wrong.
NHL Hall of Famer and President of the Boston Bruins Cam Neely not only appreciates a good joke, he and Denis Leary co-founded Comics Come Home, the longest-running comedy fundraiser in history. Since 1995, the annual event benefits The Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care, whose mission is "to provide comfort, support and hope to cancer patients and their families." This year’s show at the TD Garden in Boston on Nov. 18 boasts a mega lineup of stars includes Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson and Jeff Ross, among many others. Tickets are on sale here.
Entrepreneur sat down with the bruising Bruin to discuss his passion for helping others, leadership, and tips for building a team that hates to lose.
This is the 23rd year of Comics Come Home. What has driven you to do this year after year?
Both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer at a young age and passed away. Most professional athletes do a number of charitable things throughout their careers, and when cancer struck my family, I decided to start this foundation focused on areas of care that I saw was lacking. Families suffer so much when a loved one is sick. So we have two main parts: The Neely Cancer Fund which supports treatment and research efforts and The Neely House, built in memory of my parents, which gives families a convenient, comfortable place to live and relax and be around others while undergoing treatment.
How did Denis Leary get involved?
Denis is from Worcester Mass. I first came to Boston in 1986, instead of going to movies I enjoyed going to comedy shows. Through some mutual friends, I met Denis and we became friends. I asked him if he would consider doing some standup for a benefit for our foundation, and he did so much more. Comics Come Home is really his brainchild, he pulled together his friends from the Boston clubs and it has grown so much from there.
Whether it is running your foundation or your hockey team, how would you describe your decision-making style?
It's really all about having the right conversations with the right people to get the right information. You need to digest the facts and then ultimately not be afraid to make a decision. The toughest thing is understanding that your decisions could impact other people's lives, but you can't be afraid to do what you think it's right. You just have to believe it and move forward.
What do you look for in new hires?
One of my favorite questions to ask people -- especially prospective players -- is, “Do you love to win or do you hate to lose?” There's a big difference. Everybody loves to win. I hate losing. And I love when great teamwork works. Sure, this guy might have scored three goals, but in order to do that, someone had to pass him the puck.
Besides hockey and charity, you are something of a notable film actor. You famously hocked a loogie into Jeff Daniels’ cheeseburger in Dumb & Dumber.
[Laughs] Yes, I played Sea Bass. That was a heck of a good time. The funny thing was when the Farellys asked me to do it, I didn’t know much about the production. I said sure, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my playing schedule. Then Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels signed on. Wow, this just became a much bigger deal! Every once in a while when I’m walking down the street, I still get people shouting, “Kick his ass, Sea Bass!”
What was it like to have the Bruins win the Stanley Cup?
For me it was it was such a special moment because I truly love our fan base. It was 39 years between cups and so you have generations of passionate fans. I was excited for our fan base and the city of Boston.
Do you plan on talking to the team about the ongoing controversy of players not standing for the National Anthem?
Yes, we’ll be addressing that. You know, I believe everybody has a right to express their opinions and their values and beliefs and I don't necessarily think that a sporting event is a place to do that. Fans are there to watch the event. But I believe in people having the right to express themselves, absolutely.
There were a bit more fisticuffs back in the day with hockey. Is it true that players would kick the crap out of each other on the ice, then go grab a beer after the game?
Not exactly, but if we’d run into each other, it wasn’t like we held grudges. You know, we had an issue and we took care of it on the ice, over and done.
If only everything could be like that simple.
I was joking the other day that when I got upset with someone back in the day, I used to get five minutes in the penalty box. Now I'd get handcuffs!
Any chance people who go see Comics Come Home will see you do a set?
Ha, no I am not going anywhere near a microphone to tell jokes on stage. I think I'm more “witty” than funny. That is something I would never attempt.
Finally, do you want to go on the record stating that the New York Rangers are guaranteed to win the Stanley Cup this year?
[Laughs] I’m not going to do that either.
Tickets for Comics Come Home are available now, click here to purchase.