In hockey, timing is everything, which likely explains Bruins president Cam Neely’s measured demeanor early this past weekend at his annual Comics Come Home fundraiser.

The event, hosted and organized by Worcester native Denis Leary, benefits the Cam Neely Foundation, perhaps most famous for its Neely House – a bed and breakfast-style home for cancer patients and their families while they undergo treatment at the Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

However, the energy leading into this year’s event (the first since the pandemic) was a bit uneasy, as Neely was embroiled in his first real scandal since arriving in Boston as a player in the '80s.

For reasons that remain unclear, the first-place Bruins signed controversial prospect Mitchell Miller, infamous for reprehensible bullying of a classmate while growing up in Ohio. After public outcry, Mitchell was finally released. But the question remains: why? Especially when you consider Neely’s charitable reputation. And the fact that he, himself, is famous for parodying a bully.

In the 1994 film Dumb & Dumber, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels find themselves face to face with the dopey, repugnant trucker “Sea Bass” who, spoiler alert, is repeatedly outsmarted by the incredibly dimwitted duo.

While backstage at this year’s Comics Come Home, I began by telling Neely I wanted an answer to the question on everybody’s mind. To his credit, he swallowed hard, looked me in the eye, took a deep breath, and was prepared to answer.

He was then visibly relieved when I asked when Sea Bass was finally getting a spinoff movie.

How did Neely land the oddly iconic role to begin with?

“A mutual friend went to school with Peter Farrelly,” he explains, referring to one-half of the brotherly duo behind other comedies such as “There’s Something About Mary” and “Kingpin.”

“I became friends with (Peter’s brother) Bobby and Peter, they called me up one day and said listen, we’re shooting this movie, we’ve got this role, we think you’d be great. I thought, ‘Ah, it sounds like fun.’ But I had no idea what I was getting into.”

And yes, to this day, Neely says people still see him and shout, “Kick his ass, Sea Bass!” in front of friends and family.

Up close, Neely is soft-spoken as he speaks warmly of another friend who played a key role in easing his tensions about coming to Boston: actor Michael J. Fox.

“I had no choice,” said Neely, who was traded to the Bruins from Vancouver. “It was either come here or not, but Mike said, ‘You’re gonna love it. Boston’s gonna love you.'”

And by the end of this night, everyone again loved Cam Neely. So for now, the Mitchell Miller mystery remains just that. But count me as skeptical that one who blushes when reminded of playing a fake bully would get behind a real one.

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