Tag Archives: Chris Nilan

A Very Impressive Fellow

Last Friday I spent several terrific hours at the home of Jean-Patrice Martel, a renown hockey historian, author, former president of SIHR (Society for International Hockey Research),  contributor to Habs media guides, and a huge Beatles buff.

A truly nice fellow who lives just twenty minutes from me, and who kept me captivated all evening with his varied experiences and his amazing knowledge of hockey.

Jean-Patrice also gave me a copy of his fairly recent collaboration with Swedish hockey historians Carl Giden and Patrick Houda titled “On the Origin of Hockey”, and which I’ll dive into as soon as I finish my Knuckles Nilan book I borrowed from the local library.

I’d like to say thanks to this very impressive man for inviting me into his home.

A May 24, 2014 National Post review of “On the Origin of Hockey” can been seen right here. And if you’re wondering where hockey with skates and sticks originated, Jean-Patrice and the Swedes have traced it all the way back to 18th century England.

On the Origin of Hockey cover - medium.jpg

 

 

Knuckles Chats

Really, really great interview with Knuckles Nilan about French and English, fighting for a living, his personal problems, all kinds of interesting things.

It can be seen right here – http://lesfrancstireurs.telequebec.tv/  on Emission 411, a French show with host Benoit Dutrizac, with the interview in English.

But you must be a tad patient. You have to get through about three commercials and a two minute interview with somebody else.

But the wait’s worth it, because the Knuckles part is interesting and also about thirty minutes long.

Max’s OT Goal Wins It

Nice work by David Desharnais in overtime to grab the puck, change direction, feed Max Pacioretty who scored the game’s only goal, and end the misery of sitting through any more when I’m in the middle of an excellent puzzle I could’ve been working on.

The team isn’t playing well, scoring has gone south for the winter, and the boys were lucky to win against the second-worst team in the east.

It’s not something to jump for joy about. They easily could’ve lost, and we might as well accept the fact that sometimes we’ll be incredibly happy with the gang and other times not so much.

Right now, that sensational 9-0-1 feeling is long gone, replaced by a lot of grrrs and tabernacs.

I hate Habs roller coaster rides. I don’t even mind them losing sometimes. I just prefer they play decent hockey while losing from time to time, and score goals while doing it.

It was 0-0 through three periods, and the only time there was reason to cheer was when Lars Eller laid out John Tavares with a good old fashioned, old-time hockey bodycheck when Tavares wasn’t paying attention.

Of course Eller got two minutes for it. Good, clean, hard hitting is an infraction it seems. And contrary to popular opinion, superstars can be hit hard, as long as the hits are clean.

But back to the main problem. Two goals in three games. Unacceptable. I’m going back to my puzzle.

Random Notes:

Because I’d never really paid much attention to George Parros until this year, I had in my mind he was a bit of a mad man. A good fighter. A feared fighter. A bad-tempered rotten bastard.

Instead we got a calm looking guy who scraps only in staged fights and never outright wins.

He got clocked tonight by Isles tough guy Eric Boulton, was wobbly getting up, and left the game, never to return. Now it’s up to George’s wife and family to convince him to retire.

George isn’t what any of us had in mind when the Canadiens signed him. An experiment that began to fizzle in the first game of the season.

Back to the drawing board in regards to the intimidation factor. Has Knuckles Nilan kept in decent shape?

Canadiens outshot the Islanders 25-21.

Next up – Sunday night – 6:00 ET against the Panthers.

Not expecting much.

Fans have been on Desharnais and Daniel Briere over the course of the season, and now I think it’s time for Brian Gionta to feel the wrath. In my eyes, he’s been a bum. He’s too small, his shot is lousy, and he’s old. In my opinion, three darn good reasons.

 

 

It Happened Like This

It was May when Brandon Prust called Senators coach Paul MacLean a “bug-eyed fat walrus”, not long before the Canadiens bowed out to the Sens in five games.

What does that mean? Nothing. I’m just babbling. And I like the quote.

In June, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, the Canadiens grabbed lanky forward Michael McCarron along with Jacob de la Rose, goaltender Zachary Fucale, and Artturi Lehkonen in the 2013 Entry Draft, Brendan Gallagher was edged out by Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau for Calder Trophy/rookie of the year honours, and P.K captured the Norris Trophy and rightly so.

And Luci and I hopped in the car and moved to Montreal.

July saw big George Parrros and little Daniel Briere signed by the Habs, I started my new job, Chris Chelios, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Niedermayer, Geraldine Heaney, and Fred Shero were announced as new Hall of Famers, and P.K. and Carey Price were officially invited to Canada’s National Team orientation camp which would ultimately become a ball hockey game.

In August, Douglas Murray was signed by the Canadiens, I bought Dylan’s Blond on Blond CD, my brother came to visit me, and hoodlum Whitey Bulger, whose ex-girlfriend’s daughter was once married to Knuckles Nilan, somehow ended up with a 1986 Stanley Cup ring. (Whitey’s about to get sentenced to life).

September saw rookie camp get underway at Brossard, a guy robbed a bank in Orillia wearing a Habs hat, the Canadiens pre-season exhibition games kicked off, Danno sent me a hockey card I didn’t have, and Michael Bournival and Jarred Tinordi got the news they were staying with the big club. (Tinordi’s down in Hamilton at the moment).

October began with a loss to the Loafs during which George Parros conked his head in a fight and was gone for a month, Ryan White shaved his long blond locks, Daniel Briere suffered a concussion, Max got hurt, Leaf great Allan Stanley passed away, the Red Sox won the World Series, Alexei Emelin signed for four more years, and the Hockey Inside Out Summit kicked off at Hurley’s on Crescent St.

In November, Parros came back with his mustache missing, I bought a sports jacket, Toronto’s mayor made a whack of headlines, a Michel Therrien/PK Subban soap opera picked up steam, Gaston’s still an asshole, and the Canadiens have lost all four games they’ve played this month.

 

 

Knuckles’ Ring Thing

Whitey Bulger says Chris Nilan gave him Chris’s 1986 Habs Stanley Cup ring. Chris says he didn’t.

Who to believe.

I believe Knuckles. You think I’m going to take the side of an 83-year old Boston mobster, found guilty of a bunch of gangland murders and various other activities? And he’s from Boston so he’s probably a Bruins fan. No way I’m siding with a Boston mobster who cheers for the Bruins.

I’m going with the guy who played for the Montreal Canadiens. A guy who stuck up for his teammates every time he stepped on the ice. A blue-collar guy. A team guy.

That, and Mr. Nilan seems like a nice enough fellow when I hear him on TSN690 talking about his long and bumpy road.

But I have to admit, when I first heard this story, I thought that it might have been something Chris could have done when he was living a life of hangovers. I can see it happening. But he says he didn’t and that’s good enough.

Knuckles used to be married to the daughter of Whitey’s ex-girlfriend. That’s not even close. That’s like saying my aunt’s cousin’s nephew was lead singer for Iron Butterfly.

Chris says he gave the ring to his dad, and when GM Serge Savard heard about it, he ordered another one made for Chris. This is an all round feel-good story.  And it’s as cool as it gets, being in the position to give dad your Stanley Cup ring. Not to some guy who doesn’t exactly have a 9 to 5 job.

It’s a crazy story. And maybe Whitey thinks the ring’s real but it’s actually one of those knock-offs you can buy on eBay for fifty bucks.

I’m on Chris’s side on this. I don’t trust mobsters.

Go Downtown, Men

The Habs development camp opened today in Brossard, and it got me thinking. I’m only seven minutes from the rink, and they might need a stick boy!

This is the kind of guy I am. Willing to go to development camp to hone my craft before the big team calls me up for the big stick boy job.

I’ve been told that many Habs live in the Brossard area, and if the wives need me to make them more comfortable, I can be there in minutes. This is the kind of guy I am. Sacrificing my time for the good of the wives.

It also got me thinking. Why would millionaire players live in the suburbs when they can afford a luxury condo downtown? Maybe it’s why many players don’t want to play in Montreal. They’ve never experienced what they should be experiencing. It’s a vibrant downtown, full of this and that. Better than Toronto’s downtown. Better than Vancouver’s. Even better than Orillia’s.

And way better than Philadelphia’s.

Instead, they park themselves in the suburbs where it could be any suburb in North America. It’s not right.

Brendan Gallagher, for example, has been living at Josh Gorges’ place in Brossard. There’s the ridiculously nutty Champlain Bridge to cross, and I’ll bet young Gally is bored silly at home. Gorges and his lady should buy a condo on Crescent or St. Denis, let Gallagher help out with the mortgage, and they might never leave, even after their playing days are over.

And that goes for any of them. C’mon Habs. Smarten up.

Chris Nilan said he lived in Brossard when he played for the Canadiens, hated the traffic on the bridge, and as soon as he moved into the core he began loving his life. Of course, maybe he loved life just a little too much but that’s not my fault.

Was Erik Cole unhappy because he didn’t live downtown? Is it why his smile was wiped away prior to last season and he got ants in his pants?

Maybe guys don’t play well  because they didn’t live downtown. Where did Scott Gomez live?

And is Brossard the reason why the team hasn’t won the Cup in twenty years?

It’s hard to understand. If I didn’t work on the south shore and have to battle the bridge thing, we’d be downtown. I’m certain about this. Coffee and bagels at the corner cafe. Short walks to pubs and bars and maybe the odd licensed establishment.. Old trees and old streets. People-watching. Bird feeding. Walk everywhere. Relive the Richard Riot on Ste. Catherines. Whatever I want.

I’m homesick for downtown and I’ve never lived there.

These players have all this money and they’re missing something fantastic because they want the big squeaky clean mansion in Brossard. They live in the kind of places you have to change your socks so you don’t get the floor dirty and I don’t understand it.

I think they’ve been hit on the head a few times too many.

 

The Gomez List

NHL leader lists are an excellent thing. We get to see various groups of players, usually with Wayne Gretzky at the top, leading a pack of players in a variety of categories. 

Although Gretzky’s not in all them of course. He’s not up there in Playoff Penalty Minutes for example. That belongs to Dale Hunter and Chris Nilan with 729 and 541 respectively, with Claude Lemieux third with 529.

Tons of lists. Lots of players with lots of goals and points and such. If you print it off Wikipedia you get about 46 pages worth.

But we’ve got a guy on a list too.

I’d like to mention our very own Scott Gomez.

He’s on this list – Guys Who Have Gone Longer Than 40 Games Without A Goal.

Right freaking now – 44 games – Scott Gomez
2005-06 47 games Cameron Janssen (NJ)
2003-04 51 games Matthew Spiller (Phx)
2002-03 46 games Robert Ray (Buf/Ott)
2002-03 42 games Kryzysztof Oliwa (NYR/Bos)
2002-03 41 games Alexander Henry (Edm/Wsh)
1998-99 61 games Tyler Wright (Pit)
1998-99 46 games Trent McCleary (Mtl)
1998-99 45 games Steven Webb (NYI)
1998-99 44 games Darren Langdon (NYR)
1991-92 50 games Jay Caufield (Pit)
1979-80 43 games Jay Wells (LA)
1974-75 40 games Gary Doak (Bos)
1957-58 45 games Gordon Strate (Det)
1932-33 48 games Vernon Ayres (NYA)
1932-33 46 games Harold Starr (Ott/Mtl)
1931-32 48 games John ‘Jack’; McVicar (Mtl)
1930-31 43 games Francis Peters (NYR)
1928-29 44 games Percival Traub (Det)
1928-29 40 games Gerald Carson (Met/NYR)
1927-28 40 games Charles Langlois (Mtl C/Pit Pirates)

Extra, Extra…..Part Six in ’86

For the last eight Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup wins, from 1971 to 1993, I managed to save the front pages and laminate them. (Although one, from 1977, is an inner page).

This is part six – 1986

David Desharnais was born in 1986. Time marches on.

Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey, both well past their prime, called the 1986 Stanley Cup win the sweetest of all their championships. It was a team without snipers, a team full of hard-working grinders, and a team oozing heart and soul. And with Robinson and Gainey’s leadership, grinders grinding, and Patrick Roy in goal, the Canadiens took out the Calgary Flames in five games and Cup number 23 was in the books.

Patrick Roy was named the Conn Smythe trophy winner, a feat he would repeat again in 1993, and talk in the dressing room afterward was about the stop Roy made with just 14 seconds left, a stop that ended a Flames rally in dramatic fashion. In fact, the Habs almost blew it and who knows what would have happened in the series if Calgary ended up winning a game that was in the bag for the home team.

Montreal was leading 4-1 midway throught the third period and they were beginning to lick their lips at the thought of drinking from the Cup. But the Flames had other ideas. They made it 4-2, then 4-3 with Mike Vernon pulled for an extra attacker. Smiles and backslapping stopped on the Montreal bench. The Forum grew nervous. And then the Roy stop happened.  

Here’s Roy explaining the play. “The Flames were all around the net, and I had made the first save on Mullen, but the rebound went to (Jamie) Macoun, who was right beside me. I made the split and got my pad on the shot and then covered the puck with my glove. I was really lucky on that play, but you make your own luck, right?”

“Roy” muttered Chris Chelios. “Patrick Roy. Whew!”

Young Claude Lemieux scored ten goals in these playoffs, including four game-winners. Ryan Walter played with a half-healed broken ankle. Rookie Brian Skrudland, who had his jaw broken early in the game by Calgary’s Nick Fotiu, never missed a shift, and scored Montreal’s second goal.

Skrudland also notched the game winner in game two in the shortest overtime ever…just nine seconds in.

Linemate Mike McPhee, who became a household name in these playoffs, said of Skrudland, “He showed me what I could do when I saw him, at 175 pounds, playing like a 205-pounder every shift.”

Guy Carbonneau, called “the defensive Gretzky,” continued on even with a serious knee injury. Craig Ludwig played with a back so bad he had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Claude Lemieux, a favourite target of the opposition, played like he was possessed. “I like it fine when everybody’s after me…I am an inspiration to every player in the AHL.”

Chris Nilan couldn’t suit up for the last two games because of a damaged ankle, was bittersweet in the room during the celebrations. “I wanted to be wearing the colours,” he told reporters. “I’m glad it gave (Steve) Rooney and (Serge) Boisvert the chance to get their names on the Cup. They deserved it because they worked like hell and never opened their mouths.”

Rick Green, a whipping boy to the public was he came over from Washington with Ryan Walter in the unpopular trade that sent Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin packing, was considered the best defenceman of all in the ’86 playoffs. And Gaston Gingras finally showed he was a bonafide NHLer by having a fine series and scoring three big goals.

Montreal had reached the final against Calgary by first taking out the Boston Bruins in three games  (a best of five), then Hartford in seven games, and finally the Rangers in five.

And the last word goes to Mats Naslund. “We needed a lot of things to go our way if we were going to win. We had a lot of problems during the regular season, and while we were having them those problems, anybody who said we’d win the Stanley Cup had to be out of his mind. But when things started to fall into place, we felt we had a chance. We had the feeling we could beat the teams we faced, and this,” he said with a wave of his hand at the celebrations around him, “is the payoff.”

The Habs In 1986 – Getting Noses Dirty, And Winning It All

It’s certain the Montreal Canadiens of 1986 weren’t a dominant team in the league, or a great team like the Habs of other years. Heck, they weren’t even as good as several other teams in these playoffs. But they won the Stanley Cup and the rest didn’t. And they did it through a blend of old, new, and a goalie who stood on his head.

Montreal’s 1986 Stanley Cup win over the Calgary Flames was the 23rd time the team had drank from the old mug, and surprising as it was for all the armchair quarterbacks and hockey experts of the world, there were actual reasons why they were able to do this drinking.

Patrick Roy standing on his head was a very good reason. The rookie won the Conn Smythe for his performance in these playoffs, and one stop in particular may just have saved the day for the Habs. Coach Jean Perron had called a timeout with the game winding down and Montreal leading 4-3, when just 30 seconds after the timeout and only 14 seconds left, Jamie Macoun thought he had it tied when he fired and waited for the red light. But Roy pulled out the most important big stop of the series to maintain the lead. “I wasn’t on the ice when Roy made that save,” grinned Bobby Smith.  “When he made it, I was on my feet yelling: ‘Roo-ah! Roo-ah!’ This smile is going to be on my face until September.”

But Roy wasn’t the only reason the Canadiens came through. It was simply an amazing and unheralded bunch.

Ryan Walter for example, who played with a half-healed broken ankle, and played like a demon. Team doctors said with astonishment that if it was the regular season, Walter wouldn’t have even skated for another three weeks. Walter later explained, “Adrenaline is an amazing healer with a Stanley Cup in sight.”

Guy Carbonneau, playing with a serious knee injury.

Chris Nilan, who sat out the last two games with a damaged ankle, said of journeymen Serge Boisvert and Steve Rooney, who had filled in, “I’m glad it gave these guys a chance to get their names on the Cup. They deserved it because they worked like hell and never opened their mouths.”

Brian Skrudland, who was knocked out cold early in the final game, put the Canadiens ahead, 2-1, for good in the second period and never missed a shift. Later, in the dressing later, he blurted out, “You don’t know how much being a part of this means to me.  Since I can remember, I’ve always cried when the Canadiens and Saskatchewan Roughriders lost.”

Gaston Gingras, a player who was made fun of in previous years because of miscues and a big shot with no control, was a big-time player in the finals, scoring three large goals. No one made jokes about Gingras after this series was over.

Craig Ludwig, a solid defenceman, with a back so bad he could hardly get out of bed in the morning.

Claude Lemieux, the target of every player in the league, losing two teeth and creating havoc and playing like a man possessed whenever he stepped on the ice.

Rick Green, who performed so well on the blueline he was considered the best defencemen in all of the 1986 series, including those from the other teams. And Green had been a scapegoat because he and Walter had come to Montreal in an unpopular trade that saw Rod Langway, Doug Jarvis, Brian Engblom and Craig Laughlin sent to Washington.

Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson, thinking their time may have passed and wondering if they would ever win another Stanley Cup – and they played big and won again. 

Coach Jean Perron saying this 1986 team was the best defensive team in Montreal history. “When you don’t have great scorers you have to be great defensively. When we hang up that banner in the Forum, it will be screaming ‘defence…defence.’ ”

And there were others who made their mark too; Mike McPhee, Smith, Mats Naslund, Lucien Deblois and Mike Lalor to name a few, and Chris Chelios in just his second full year in the NHL.

Montreal would win again in 1993 and that would be it. Until this year, when they get solid efforts from the unexpected, and Carey Price comes through like Patrick Roy did back then.