Cam Neely joined Felger & Mazz for his usual chat, and with a few weeks apart after a long Olympic break, the guys had plenty to talk about with the Bruins president.
First, on the heels of an exciting Olympic tournament, Michael Felger asked Neely if his opinion on the NHL’s participation has changed at all.
Neely’s short answer: nope.
“It’s great hockey. I don’t want anybody to think I don’t think it’s great hockey. It’s fantastic hockey, and as a player I think it’d be a great experience,” Neely said.
“From the NHL’s point of view, it’s tough to shut the league down. When we see injuries happen like we did, it’s difficult. … Those are the reasons. If they were to say hey listen, we’re going to do like basketball and have hockey in the summer, I’d say yeah, go ahead, have at it.
“But I think it’s just difficult and it’s unfair to the fan base to shut down for a couple of weeks, and then there’s the risk of injury.”
Neely said the owners will likely soon assess the 2014 Olympics before making any decisions about NHL participation in 2018.
The conversation then moved on to the Bruins’ increase in season ticket prices, which were announced this week. Some fans have seen their ticket prices increase by upwards of 100 percent in the past three or so years.
“Obviously, it is a big increase. It’s something, they haven’t seen an increase like this. We had numerous discussions before we landed on what we were going to do,” Neely said.
Neely noted that four other American teams have higher ticket prices than the Bruins.
“We feel like we’ve put a competitive team on the ice, we’ve won a Cup, we’ve gone to the Finals,” he said. “The cap is going up next year by close to $7 million, and we’re going to be able to spend to the cap. We feel it was justified at this time.”
Neely continued: “We certainly appreciate the support that our fans have given us over the last number of years. They’re a big part of success, so we want to try to educate them and listen to them and hear what they have to say. … We feel that coming to the Garden and the type of team that we put on the ice, the type of success that we’ve had, we feel that coming to an event like this and watching our team play justifies what we’re looking at as far as ticket prices go. We know it’s a big increase, and we certainly understand that it’s a big increase, but we feel like this is what we need to do to stay competitive.”
Neely added in that the “game presentation” at the TD Garden is better than most presentations around the league, something that also contributes to the value of the ticket.
The interview segued into fans’ expectations for the team at the trade deadline, given how much they’re spending to see the team play. Should fans paying high prices expect the team to approach the deadline with a gung ho attitude to get better?
“It’s going to be no different from what we do every year. I’ve mentioned this numerous times … if we feel we can do something that’s going to help improve our club, we try to do it. It doesn’t necessarily happen all the time, but it’s something that we talk about a lot,” Neely said. “Everybody in here wants to win Stanley Cups, and that’s what the goal is.”
Neely, like Peter Chiarelli on Toucher & Rich earlier in the week, said he’d like to see a deal get done before the deadline, but he doesn’t want the team to make a deal just for the sake of keeping busy.
“It’s not so much about spending the money, because we’re able to do that. It’s about making the right deal and not giving up more than we should just to make a transaction,” Neely said. “We want to make the right deal that’s going to help our club. Even though we’d like to add a defenseman, we think our young guys have come along well this year and are still going to improve. But we’ll try to do something.
“It’s hard for me to say that we would do X, Y and Z without really knowing what the deal can be,” he added. “The bottom line is if there’s an opportunity to improve our club, then we have to decide whatever the move would be, does that make sense for us? The big thing is making sure we do the right move.”