Aug. 11, 2021

Chris "Knuckles" Nilan on His Career, Addition, and The Last Gladiators

Chris "Knuckles" Nilan on His Career, Addition, and The Last Gladiators

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On this episode, we're joined by former NHL right-winger, an enforcer, and Stanley Cup Champion Chris "Knuckles" Nilan.

We'll talk to Chris about his career playing for the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Boston Bruins. How he battled his addiction with drugs and alcohol, and how his life and career were predominantly featured in the 2011 documentary "The Last Gladiators."

Hosts:  Bob Kelly, Michael Marcangelo
Guest: Chris "Knuckles" Nilan
Producer: Craig D'Alessandro

Tweet your questions to @MTPshow with hashtag #askMTP, email us at Craig@MTPshow.com, or leave us a voicemail on our website to be featured on the show!

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Transcript

Craig D'Alessandro:

On this episode of missing the point we're joined by former NHL right winger enforcer in Stanley Cup champion Chris knuckles Nilan will talk to Chris about his career playing for the Canadiens Rangers and Bruins, how he battled his addiction with drugs and alcohol and how his life and career were predominantly featured in the 2011 documentary The last gladiators. This is missing the point, Episode 77. But it's all relative.

Rob Kelly:

Welcome, everyone to missing the point. I'm Bob Kelly joined by Mark Mac Angela, and today we have a special guest, Christopher knuckles. Nilan. Nilan was born in Boston, Massachusetts, played as youth hockey in West Roxbury, attended Catholic Memorial High School where he ended up earning himself an opportunity to play college hockey for the Northeastern University Huskies ended up being selected 200 and 31st overall, and in 1978 NHL draft by the Montreal Canadiens. He played it over 680 NHL games, the bruising right wing for as we mentioned, the Canadians and then the Rangers and of course, our own boss of Rhodes notable accomplishments from his career, he's one of the few who have raised the greatest trophy in sports. In my opinion, that's what what Stanley Cup was in 1986. With Canadians seven times in his career, he finished top 10 penalty minutes, usually twice a day 384 85 and 86. He holds the record for the most penalty minutes by American born player is 110 career goals 115 assists. He was a main focal point of a fantastic documentary, last gladiators released in 2011, and also released his own book detailing his life titled fighting back. Ladies and gentlemen, Christopher Nilan. So you know, just want to start off my first question here. I got to ask man being selected 231st overall, for someone who ended up having such a great career as yourself, you know that, to me, that's the first thing that jumped out to me. Was there a moment where you know, you were dropped to 331st overall, a moment where everyone went from, oh, this guy that was drafted late to, man, this guy has something special. And I really think he has something that can really stick it here in the NHL. It's something that really sticks out to

Chris Nilan:

you. I don't know about that. I guess I would say, for me when I got drafted again, after I left cm, I did a prep gear up in North oh two. I was fortunate enough to go North Eastern University. And my good friend and coach, Judge Paul King was Chief Justice at Dorchester District Court. And he was my coach growing up outside of CM and he, Mr. Hansen at CME kind of steered me to prep school, because I was a young senior. And then after prep, the judge was good friends with Frank Fleming. So I got to note these things. I got a scholarship, thanks to the judge. Then, when I was at North Eastern that judge King, was very good friends with Dickie Moore and Doug Harvey to Hall of Famers and module Kenny. He asked Doug Harvey was a scout at the time. And Dickey was a businessman, but he had a lot of sway with the organization. And the judge went to him and asked if they could do him a favor and just draft me, out of North Eastern. So hence being drafted so late, it was a favor to judge Paul Kane, the judge told Dickey more. And Doug, listen, you draft this kid, and he'll do the rest. And those are pretty powerful words coming from the judge. I never knew until after my career that he had done this and after his debt, so I never really got to thank him. He was a wonderful man, wonderful coach, a great mentor in my life. And yeah, the rest is history. I got drafted. And then I got my opportunity. And I got my foot in the door. And that's all I need.

Michael Marcangelo:

So So knowing I mean, that's an amazing story. And now I just wonder from an organizational standpoint, right? For Montreal. Was there any type of well, we did this get a favor. We did a friend a favor. Let's see how he pans out. Did you ever feel that or did they give you a really good opportunity? Right off the bat?

Chris Nilan:

I don't know how many people knew that no one really knew but other than at the time, the General Manager's standpoint, he dropped to me it wasn't like common knowledge that you know, it was a favorite. I was just drafted with one in the last fit. So that being said, I came to training camp pretty nervous, you know, you know, I don't know. If I really stood out and I played physical. I think I scored a goal or two and couple assits, but telltale sign for me that something might be going on here was they pulled me off the ice one day and said we wanted to take a picture of you for the Canadiens walk. And I'm like, okay, so I took a picture. Yeah, and the one with the afro, and I ended up getting sent to Halifax. I got to Halifax and the previous season in Halifax, the Maine mariners who were Phillies on team at the time, kick the shit out of the Canadian, the Voyagers. They had a small fast team didn't have a lot of team toughness. So the Canadians that following yeah drafted a lot of size and toughness from the Ontario Hockey League in our west. And I went to camp Brad Templeton, who was known to be a guide and love fighters. He was a tough coach. He always had tough teams was first year with Nova Scotia. And Timmy Burke who's now assistant GM in San Jose was my roommate from Melrose mass University. Timmy kind of took me under his wing when I got to Halifax. He said listen this guy, Bert Templeton. He does not like college kids. So don't screw up. Get in line. Listen, watch the drill. Don't be first to go and cheering up. Richie Costello get on merrimac first in line goes the screws the drill. we're attempting. I'm snagging blowing the whistle. Costello you fucking idiot. I died in fucking college kids are supposed to be smart. You don't forget the back of the line. So I'm like, whoa. Why do the drill, then I did. And we started doing these one on one drills in front of the net. We at the bottom for the puck, defense free price check the old like old school shit. And you know, I didn't that fucking battling big guy. Anyway, I ended up with a five game trial. But $200 again, I didn't have a contract. They gave me a five game trial. I had a one play an exhibition game. And I ended up I'll tell you the story. The big Dave Allison over the top kid on Ontario he he I ended up pushing and shoving with this guy and his name was Bam Bam Babylon j big guy top Frenchman and I pushed him I get back to the bench and Alison looks on the bed. She got a college kid you mean fucking brother. Boy, you're trying to sign a fucking brawl? You know being on play in life. I said fuck, you know what a fucking fight is Fuck, you know the next shift. And I punched the shit out of while I know now. I come back and now this fuck analysis about me the coach Why do I like this kid? I don't make regular shots. And I don't say I'm fucking word Dallas and I want you to look at so he shitting his pants. I got five game trial. 200 bucks a game we go into know the first three games in Halifax. I don't play one of them. We go on the road. Next game is in May. And they kick the shit out of the Canadian so yeah, like I said the Voyagers. Anyway. I'm happy I'm gonna make 200 bucks. play hockey. I'm getting paid. Whoop dee doo. Anyway, I go out the first shift. I've run the kick. caughlin going parkrun who was the top guy in the league? Six for 230 pounds, whatever. big kid from the western Hockey League rock fighting top kid. Anyway, I hit him but he taught me and I turned my slash to be dropped as well. I dropped my blog. away we went. I fuckin hit him on the right night gashed his eyes wide open, bleeding like a pig. I give it to him. And when we get thrown out of the game, he goes nuts. He wants to get out me and I'm trying to get out and they throw us out again. The next day, I get up in the morning and I get a phone call from the coach. And he says hey beaner he called me being a video game being town fucking idiot. He says can you come down here am I gonna talk to you on my boss shit when I get sent the plant the international legal What? I didn't know. Because I get kicked out of the game. I was all night. I'm glad I was naive to what pro hockey really what? And I come down in the room. He said hey, do you have an agent? And I said no, I don't have an agent. He said Well, you've been a fucking gambling because my geologists call me and they want to sign you to a contract. That one flight and the American it awesome. And I had a contract the next day, and I was up and running.

Rob Kelly:

That's amazing man. It was Did everyone know that? Yeah, they're telling you you can fight was that I know from personal experience from some of the stories that I've heard that you grew up you could definitely fight growing up. So the fact that came to you and challenge you that you must have been sitting there like, this is my opportunity, right? It's time to go.

Chris Nilan:

Yeah, help me certainly helped me. I had the mentality bar number for the ice. I only want the street, but it certainly served me well. And in my career, I played 49 games in Halifax. The big thing was that people didn't watch me every night scouts from the Canadian, which I didn't know. Then watching all the games. I played in 49 games. I had 15 goals and 10 assists, which is a point every two games I had 304 minutes of bellies, guys don't get done fucking some guys don't get that tough guys get that in a full seat in the American League. Anyway, I was on to was on my way to have fun. every fucking guy once I beat Cochran, everybody in the league who was a fighter, wanting to play you know, and that's how it went and 49 games in,

Rob Kelly:

I got the call first game in Atlanta. And I never went is that what led you to become and really embrace that nickname the fact that everyone kept calling everyone that's what made you make it not and that's why I got

Chris Nilan:

I got the nickname in college by my best friend in college and teammate Jerry Dwyer. Because I broke my hand a couple times off the ice I am one time I had tea to my end, I end up in law school and in fact ci another time I grew up in one of my knuckles and I missed some time. So anyway, I always commend the hockey might not have been cut out or something was black guy or whatever. And so the nickname came in college and then just kind of stuck with me and you know, they got on to it again want to own I guess it. It does fit my persona as a player.

Michael Marcangelo:

So that was your first professional fight. We'll call it right. I guess my question is, who is a player that you always wanted to get your hands on in the league, but you never were able to

Chris Nilan:

know why. You No, no one, there was none of that. You know most guys who do that job flight. I never overestimated guys, and I never underestimated that. I treated them all the same. I knew that they will righties I knew what tended to your if they will let these and that came out dry flannel Riley. I fought Jonathan first. And then O'Riley and I had Doug javas my sunrise from my first year got kicked out of the faceoff got Ben Simon did we plan the Bruins I already fought Jonathan. And then O'Reilly was on the ice with me. And I went in to take the fates off. And he did too. And I won the draw. And he got pissed. And he shot me and I fucking chopped him back. And then we dropped the but I know he's a lefty. And I've been turning my left but I'm better, right. And I just gave my true two quick punches. And he come back with a left and hit me right in the button and hit me again. And I was kind of out on my feet. Like, I couldn't see my blood was pouring out of my head. And I ended up going to belly bogs. And, you know, he gave me the, you know, a laugh, you know, I'm like, really, I fucking know, you asshole. And guy I always respected as, as the kid growing up. And you know, strictly as an opponent. He was, you know, he is played hockey the way the game was supposed to be played. And I got to penalty box, you know, I sat down I said to myself, I can never let that happen again. What I'm talking about, is I just went toe to toe with and I went strength on strength. And I said if I do that, you know, I was wasn't as big as the rest of them in the league. The fight is a lot guys a lot bigger. I said I gotta fight smart. I can't let guys hang me out at the end of the Iran. And you know, my punches are going to be short. I gotta use my head. And I did. That was probably the best thing that happened to me early on. And I started to when I fought guys. I would take away this strength and then pick my way to the fight. And if that if you know they were good, you know, lefties I and I'm better writing I'd take away the right and I swim on my lap. Some guys can't do that. And then I'd switch and I go back righty I'd throw up a cut. I change things up And quite honestly, after that, I never really got hurt by I mean, I got a couple stitches one time, couple, you know, bumps on the head, and I never really got hurt bad after that. That was the worst punch I took early on in my career. That didn't take a whole lot.

Rob Kelly:

That leads me to my next question. So you said you didn't have someone that he wanted to fight? Is there anyone that you did fight that he might have had a rivalry with that you knew you were fighting every single time you're playing them and be the best fight that you ever had? Where after you were done, you're like, wow, that was like going 12 rounds in a boxing match?

Chris Nilan:

Yeah, well, Dave brown probably before the game Philly, that was a long flight. You know, he had no shirt on. I had a jersey on. I had to kind of pick my way and figure that out when I fell on him for almost 15 minutes. style. Take a break. You know, he was saying to the girl before the game, there were no lines even on the ice or referees. So that was a little crazy, I guess. I don't know. Don Jackson. I had a good one on damn down Stanley, Philly. chychrun Kok not anybody be like, yeah, there's so many plates. Like I didn't know. I just did pretty good. In most of my fights. You know, I wasn't, you know, knocking guys out left and right, what I do well in like fights and, you know, nicaean dnh NHL time, you know, I was more scared, I was scared. I was scared of losing fight name, because guys start losing fights. And it's like, oh, we've got to get someone else you know. So I kind of that was probably the thing that worried me most, but it didn't, it didn't. So, you know, I was confident my abilities, I was able to do it, I had a good knack for doing it. And, you know, I could have never done the drive, though. Unless I didn't, why I couldn't fucking sit on the bench, and go out there and fight. And then, you know, sit in the fucking bench press. Again, I couldn't do I think that drove me to become a better player.

Rob Kelly:

So it actually kind of leads me to something that my dad brought up was that coming up? You know, you were always known as one of the tough kids. When you broke into the hockey league, you were known as one of those tough kids. He just mentioned it where you turned yourself into an all round hockey player. Was there a moment where you realized that you know what fighting and being tough and doing this isn't gonna get you to that next level? I really need to do this or that in order to extend my career or sell me to that next level I want to be at,

Chris Nilan:

well, I was at the level gonna be in the NHL, but it was the question was, you know, are you gonna be an everyday player, you're gonna sit in the fucking bed, which I didn't want. I was fortunate to be with an organization that, quite frankly, didn't want me to be just a fighter. They wanted me to be a player. And they work with me, Dan, I, they had the perfect student. And they had great teachers. And they helped me I worked every day on the fundamentals, skating, passing, shoot different situational things they've worked with me on. And you know, it drove me and they really helped me become that guy who will be put on the ice in any situation, whether it was to get a goal and to be the guy standing in front of the net, to be the guy going into the corner coming up with the puck, or dependently. So, you know, I got to that point. And again, for me, it was that was what I was most proud of, in my career. The fact that I became an everyday player, the fighting thing. You know, I enjoyed it. A lot of people say I needed it. And I enjoyed it. There we go. I had my nights. It was tough. And, you know, it can wear on your son, but you know, I loved what I was doing. So being a guy, a

Michael Marcangelo:

local guy here in Boston. What was your first thought when you saw that you were slighted by the Montreal Canadiens? Like Was there any of how am I going to explain this to the boys like I hate them now? I'm playing for them.

Chris Nilan:

Yeah, yes. And no, I was just happy to be draft. I just, you know, I was hoping I would. But you know, I had Pelling minutes in college, but you know, you can't fight. I know most of them would like reppin or, you know, physical balance. And, you know, I just like I said I was happy to be drafted. It was the Canadiens I remember watching 7879 the playoffs when they beat Boston to many, many eyes. I was pissed off because I wanted to see the Bruins when they could never be done. And even though I was drafted, I still was a grants man. But that change very quick.

Michael Marcangelo:

were your first impressions of that organization because based on what you said, so far I mean, you have nothing but rave reviews about your experience there. And I think that for being a Bruins fan, it's we always like just like to paint them as the enemy. But for someone that came from here and went there, how do they treat you? What were they like,

Chris Nilan:

first class all the way. The only time I had a beef when it was reorganization was when I had been drafted. And it was 7879. I went in to the ball, a stun gun with a friend of mine watch practice. And after practice, while during the practice, he said, Hey, why don't you go see somebody with the organization? And ask him we get tickets in next game in Montreal, and we'll drive up and go catch your game. I meant when I did. So I go down the hall clone rail, was there the time to scan the hall and I asked him today. Hey, I know you would the games organization. I was drafted by you guys. I want to know if I get a ticket. He said, Oh, I don't handle that this man over that. And that was guy's name was how we run. He was a road secretary. And Howard since they went up to him. I said, Listen, here's the deal. I was drafted by you guys for Mr. Norman Howard. I said, and I'd love to get tickets up there at the next game. That's possible. I said, you and Dr. Tobias, what's your name? Where do you put I said, I played at Northeastern. I was drafted last year seven, eight, last night and he got the guide book out. And he went through the pages and he looked he said shoring up yeah. I have two tickets that came to Montreal. I leave the building when my friend frannie Laverty from South Boston. He had a big Lincoln Continental Mach five, badass looking down. We pull around the corner, the guy in red claws, like is jack Lemmon de la Fleur and Joe Lubin, and they're looking for a cab and there's no cabs around it. trace its mark, I'm gonna give him a ride. So we pull up, say, Hey, you guys want to ride the hotel and they're kind of looking at us. They all got Stanley Cup brain gone. And it looking like these fucking guys are gonna drive us. Anyway. Get in the car. And we take them over the high Rincey came. And we're driving omen. Llamas behind me with flowers in the middle. No look clearer. The outside will be on within the middle. In North Florida. I've been applied. You got the Stanley Cup. On I go. I say you guys were going off the next game. But I said next year, I'm going to be up here with you guys. I'm gonna play with you. I would be at training camp, saying let me I goes, how are you going to do that? I said, Well, I played college hockey. I was drafted by the Canadians last year. He said Really? What wrong? We dropped it. I said the 70 the three of them started fucking laughing. thinking Oh, yeah, you got a fucking chance. Good. And anyway, we won the game. We dropped mogh went to the game at the Boston Garden that night. We're gone the next game in Montreal. I get here. I walk and I say tickets for Chris sale. Ladies love she goes away. She comes back with a ticket. She said Yeah, that'll be $280 Fuck you. So we panic when his credit guy now that one time when I was called crazy Jesus like a priest. And I'm like, he sends a bit. That's the difference between a first round pick. And they sent me fucking tickets I did.

Rob Kelly:

They're not gonna pay as much and they're gonna make you pay for your shit.

Chris Nilan:

Yeah, that was the only time I was pissed at the organization.

Rob Kelly:

I gotta I gotta ask a follow up to that. Did they ever mentioned that? Did they ever mention that again? Those three guys about Uganda not

Chris Nilan:

yet. And I'll tell you how they did it not training camp. And we're at training camp, and the first year and I'm in the locker room. And I was faced with a team. You know, they broke this up into four different teams. And you played around Robin scrimmage thing. Anyway, I'm in the locker room and I'm getting ready and I'm looking I'm on the flirty. And it keeps looking at me. He's looking at me. And he looks and I can stare right back at him and he goes you're the kid done. You're the kid from Boston tab on the kid who give us a ride stabbing. You said you got to be I'd say my pocket told you I beat you on the ice with black and no worry of a light. Julian is on the other fuckin teams saying he's a tough guy. like six, seven black and flat everybody Anyway, I'm lined up against me fucking staring at me. Keep looking. I'm gonna have to fight this guy. And he goes, it's your neck. It's you the kibou Boston. Tony, I'd be so away we go. Lamar had left that. Yeah, he went over to Switzerland. And he was a dairy guy was there. So we went over to Switzerland. He played this season is short. And he came back January, February, March, beginning April, and we used to go to lunch every day across the street. I found Saturn in one day, and lie, Romsey still sitting there with lament. So that talking, I guess, lemon says to him, who's the fucking kid, that new kid Nilan you know, doing all the fighting? And he said, Oh, you just come in right now. And I sat down. Larry goes, Hey, Chris, I want to introduce you to jack Lemmon. Hey, Sean, how you doing? How's everything he goes, have a knack? It's you. You're the king, you give us a ride. I said, I told you I be here. And I'm telling you don't worry about like, he'd walk and lap this out. This guy became my favorite coach. He was the guy who really helped me fine tune my skills to where I could play every day. He was the guy, he took a special interest in me. Since that day in the kind I said, I'm gonna be playing with you guys next year. He never forgot that. never forgot it. And he's gonna interest in me and helped me be more than just a fighter. Incredible.

Michael Marcangelo:

That's an amazing story. And again, I just want to keep kind of hard. But you know, touching on the fact that you're one of us. You're from here. And you went to play there. So what? We know what that we know what the rivalry is like for you know, we never know how big it was back in the 80s or the 70s as we weren't there, right. But what was it like at the Montreal? How much do they hate Bruins fans? Or did they even care at that point? Yes.

Chris Nilan:

They do. And they don't. I think there's a healthy respect there in that sense. But there's always sent fucking loud mouth out so we'll get wrong and fix it up for the rest of them. Like, I remember when I have retired. I took my son to again and I'm in it with him. And these two kids are around 25 and a kid sees me when I sign a clock and I think you fucking tough blah blah blah, right? Oh, yeah. I said Chris we hit and they walked away they walked by smart as fuck. Right? So I said Chris, wait, yeah, I walked up behind the tomb they will walk the line together. I wrap both dead fucking hands and I went home and I smashed up knit together. You walk you punk plot. Often when my most my son Chris. Hey, Dad, you're fucking nuts. I said, Hey, fuckin two points. Wife. I was at a game with my son after that when I retired and the next day I saw it in the newspaper. And I was walking to my car and I'm surprised why gangs a bad time and I missed it because I wouldn't fucking help this kid. There's a young kid. I know he's like 18 years 19 years old down there at the game he had an AP shirt on and a kid want to bring a shirt which ship base and he's fitting on and tell him you fucking this and now the kids are Hey, come on. It's just a game you know Fuck you. He Sucker Punched him get glasses on broke his glasses. The black Benny started fucking Beutner. Finally somebody jumped in and help the kid cops came anyway they arrested the fucking dope. And the kid was in the hospital next day mass generally fuckin in there for two days. So you get those fucking out songs. And for the most part, yeah, I think the fans have a healthy respect for one another the organization's you know, they always love the brand and the top team, the fan base in Boston, they'll always demand the top team, blue collar hard working team. And the fans. Yeah, you know, there was spoiled this all along. And they expected their team to be in the Stanley Cup by every year. They still do. Do the

Michael Marcangelo:

players feel it? Like do you know when you're playing Boston as a kadian? Or vice versa? Do you get up for that game? Or is it just another day in the office?

Chris Nilan:

Man, those games are the best game during the season. Like we played them four times and Puffin preseason at a fight every fucking idiot they write in and then got to play it eight times during the yep well times of Boston they play four times up here. How can you not talk and hate each other? And then playoffs come in. It's like the prime with the Bruins back then. As they never you know they always try to top the Canadians like whoa man if I could beat you up and they always did. saten fuckin stupid. That they shot themselves in the foot. They had a great team. And I'm going to tell you, there were times I get to the point where I kind of felt bad for some of the guy because they had some good guys on that team that I liked and respected. And I felt bad for Riley. Rick Middleton I felt bad van Fung rabl. I'm like these poor bastards. They just can't beat us. But they always fucking do something stupid. That screws up some fucking idiot that was gonna be an idiot. And believe me I've been a fucking idiot to before.

Rob Kelly:

Seems like nothing. Bro is a steal still doing that nowadays. And they get there. But so I have to ask him. So that brings me back to that Zdeno Chara incident was that five six years ago where he checked a Canadian into the boards. They had oppression charges that whole thing? What was the vibe around Montreal then like around the data where people actually like ready to prosecute this dude? Do they want him to go to jail for assaulting him? I

Chris Nilan:

hated him. They had like max rather than himself. You know he squatted ball and chairs any ice and he kind of fucking pushed him after the goal from behind. Max is not a quite a you know he's not tough like that. And he fuckin was stupid to do it. But after he did it, you know cha was gonna get even with and you know, I get max a lot of credit for trying to beat this guy why'd why there wasn't a good time to do it. He got the fuck right over knew why. He didn't have a whole lot of time to get speed up and back, unlock some Ciara, because he had numbers coming back was able to stand up really good in the neutral zone. He just fucking crank them. And yeah, that was unfortunate. But, you know, hey, Vax a bit. Sure is. So

Michael Marcangelo:

I want to kind of just segue a little bit from your career. And talk just a little bit about your infamous connection. I just have one quick question. Yeah. And we can cut it if you don't like it. Do you remember where you spent the 10 crisp? $100 bills that he killed off for you that night?

Chris Nilan:

Yeah, what was the name of the restaurant? The lady and why? is over by the Prudential Center nasem restaurant I forget the name but the lady in white was the manager. And she was really I think she was like, Oh, I got it. cafe Budapest. And the lady in white. That's why I spent the day on Patreon gavia every

Michael Marcangelo:

Halloween is splendid. It's also just like a few bucks in my pocket to believe me, but as you get

Rob Kelly:

Alright, so I gotta ask. Besides you who's the toughest NHL player you ever played? The guy that you were like, Man this guy's a tough ass I would never go up

Chris Nilan:

was top or Riley nit so many tough guys in the league. Like you got to respect them and you got to like I said I treated them all the same that way like I looked at him all this stuff in Ruby chick grant COC num j Milla working guys at top do that job. You know, it's like Mike, I said I that's a question. I? That's how I answer it. They're all fucking tough. You know, guys who do that job. There's no pushovers. And don't phoneys. There's no luck and tiptoeing through the tulips. So, yeah, it all up.

Michael Marcangelo:

Do you think the NHL did the right thing back then? Like, were they trying to protect you? Or were they almost trying to say like, no, go out there and do that? And like, Who cares? What happens to you?

Chris Nilan:

Who.

Michael Marcangelo:

The I would say like the NHL or just the culture back then. Because you mentioned before, you never wanted to lose a fight. Because you might get benched. So do you think that did that? It's changed a little bit. I mean, obviously it has over the years and I guess Do you remember watching or playing when you noticed, man they're making a switch now.

Chris Nilan:

Now really, is the deal that Oh, yeah. But it had nothing to do with them was teeming with you know, my whole thing was you sat new I always saw guys not losing fights. So they're not fighting as much anymore that closer to the fucking exit. They'll get somebody else to do it. I had Lamar as a coach told me slow down fighting. You fight too much. He said you've won. You got guys out there that don't want to go near you use that ring to score goals to play the game. And, you know, I look dumb like you've been shitting me, you're gonna tell me I'm fighting too much and like Almost interesting. What I did because I had such a respect one where he wanted me to score well, he wanted me to clap. Yeah not forget where I came from, but slow down on the fight. And I didn't. I just I didn't cuz I couldn't. I just had not one. You know, I you saw me slow down someone buggin Today we're going Hello? Or send me this am I gonna be the guy who's here? No, I'm fuckin jock me. So these are the say that and you know, I always say to myself and I stayed true to myself. And it almost broke me when I got traded. When I always said, if a coach tells me to go and play a mix that Emperor in the hotel go fuck himself. So don't ever tell me to fight. And because I knew how to do my job. Right. I knew how to do it. Like Well, yeah. Told me. I fought too much. Slow down. Okay, I can take that. But don't tell me to go fight anybody. And that's how I ended up getting traded.

Rob Kelly:

Because told you to go fight like he requests.

Chris Nilan:

You know, we were going through a bad time. JOHN Peron was the coach at the time. And he thought, a fucking idiot. And a real idiot. He was a dummy, as a coach. And we won the Stanley Cup with this guy. Like, the guys get the team together with Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson. And it was down toward the end of the season. We were struggling a bit. He come around the room started fucking ripping in this guy got back. And he came to me said and not personally I learned. When is the last time you had a fight? And I said, right. I said, you fucking tell me both like, what the fuck do you know about play? But you called me. And he went, yeah, he called the GM church. He was a good friend and had a lot of respect for me and loved me still does today. And I love him. When I put him in a bad situation, sir. It was either me or the coach and he picked the coach. And he sent me packing. And then he fired that fucking idiot. Two months later, three months later, at the end of the season, he flying man, and the guy who was in line and pat burns. I was good friends with birdie. But I can I was perfect for burnsy I wouldn't drive them to him instead. Anyway, it almost broke me getting traded. I never wanted to play for another fucking team. Once I was here, once I was part of this. I never want to play anywhere else.

Rob Kelly:

Do you think that decision would have been different if it wasn't at the end? If it wasn't in the middle of the season? If those ends of the season? He calls the GM say, Hey, listen, Chris, or may you think the GM is like Well, listen, man, this is Chris.What are we talking about?

Chris Nilan:

Yeah, I mean, if that happened the end of season Yeah. And like the deadline would have been Oh, but trade deadline. I'm only gonna trade it. You know, he was gone anyway. But, you know, I did put charge in a difficult spot when he made his choice. And I wasn't happy with it.

Rob Kelly:

So you're talking about winning the Stanley Cup and change change pivot a little bit here? What was that like? Man, I have to ask because that's been something that I always see that as the toughest trophy to get in sports, The Longest Journey in sports to a championship. And when they win the cup, it just seems like it means the most of these guys. So So what was that feeling like actually being able to lift? And did you kiss it? Did you kiss the cup? I got it. No,

Chris Nilan:

no, I'll be honest with you. It was awesome. It's, you know, it's a very difficult road to get there. You know, I started the playoffs. I was two or three. I was about 192. At the end. I had a black guy and I could only watch the second last game. I tore ligaments in my ankle. My ankle snapped onto me that my ankle was like, freakin deciding game in Calgary. I went in the warm up, they injected me and froze it. And they watch me skate and warm up and sir. I said I'm fine. I can go and shared said big boy said no, you can't skate. You can't keep up. And I said I can fucking play I can play. Now. We got to put someone else you got to think of the team. And my biggest regret was that I wasn't on the ice with my uniform now and sweating my balls off and being there at the end. Being able to lift that cop I was in a fuckin suit. Suit It was still awesome. Let me tell you it was still awesome. But I was bombed I won on the eighth, right?

Michael Marcangelo:

Yeah. You just talked a little bit about how everything changed for you when you were traded when you were so what was the experience like in New York and unboxed? I did coming back to Boston after what did that lessen the blow? Or was it just too little too late at that point?

Chris Nilan:

Yeah, I went near the end. When I was in Boston ranges. You know, I had a few injuries. I broke my arm twice. I totaled my knee. I was a mess there. And maybe that was just getting all catching up to me. And I ended up getting traded to Boston. And I my first year that was fun, it was good and I end up breaking my fucking and playing basketball on the pocket. You know, I got Nov every name in the all star team. I missed the game because of my ankle. And then in my second year, they fucked around with me a lot. Bonus was the coach. I love playing for millbury rig bonus was the coach who really is a nice guy. But he was a puppet at that time, but it rescinded and might. And I remember the beginning of the year the Bruins always been on that long road trip because the circus is in town. And I go on the road trip. First of all, I was on the beach squad and buck in training camp. They fuck with me there. Anyway, I'm with the team I go on the road. And Linden bias and Alan Stewart are with the team both played as I go on that road trip. I don't play one game. like six game road trip. Back in practice every day ride the bike stand ready. The last game boy go home is in Chicago said Stuart has been fighting all trip. fires have been fighting all the time. And you know I am on the bike. I'm in my mind. I'm gonna have to warm up. I'm not Fuck, I'm gonna play in Chicago. And I'm on the black gap, the warm up. And he kind of he said, You know, I've gone back and riding the bike and won't squint my eyes. I'm really proud the way you deal with it. I'm like, I didn't even look out right. So they go they played a game. We fly On the next day. The following day. We get to practice and Stuart got sick of hockey get sick and fighting and he went gun this time can took off. He went back to iping wherever he's from where the fuck up somewhere. I don't know. And you got in the car and left. So he's gone. We're gonna practice bias takes a slap shot up the ankle breaks his foot at the practice. We're going to sit down and make bone comes in back and roll we'll come on come ready to Golden Lion. I said Rick, Go fuck yourself.

Rob Kelly:

wouldn't expect any other ads?

Chris Nilan:

Yeah. And he said what I said Go fuck yourself. You think I'm gonna go to a fucking wall for you the way you fucking treated me for you.

Rob Kelly:

So, especially after being in the league for 11 years to be relegated to the bee squad. Almost like the all star team one year and then all of a sudden you're the shoe and after two guys get hurt. Yeah, I don't blame me on that.

Chris Nilan:

Yeah, I wasn't happy. And anyway, Jamie Jones wrote an article in The Herald I had sat out like another two or three games. He wouldn't play me just practice busting my balls and practice. Anyway millbury finally Joe wrote an article Middlebury on to get up his ass and you know how nylon and burn is similar six so we can play again. So I go and sit down with bonus Mel Varian. Like secret. She can't fucking tell that. I'm like, here's the deal. I'm not quite been reborn in a fuckin nearly but I've been in this fucking game as long as they out. Okay, I put my fucking time in. I fucking did my job. I still do my corporate job. I get treated by shit like, but by this code, and I wasn't fucking happy with all of a sudden he wants me to clock and come carry the fucking flag and blow the vehicle and fucking shoot the gun to buck You know? So he said well, can we put this bias and you know we're just fucking little fucker respect with you. Well, that's all I'm asking. You're gonna fucking respect me. I ain't fuckin respecting you. So, finally now with it next night. We play New Jersey. He fucking plays me like 20 minutes. I couldn't even fucking breathe. So by the end of the game, you say Oh, you want to wait. You know he had to bust my balls. If I could show you why he bought me out doubles chip that me but I ain't got two goals. Anyway, and then the end is sees the trade deadline and was coming. And wave is they put me on waves. So I got on the phone I called search avadh quietly, and I said search, please get me the fuck out of here. Please bring me back. Well, yeah, so I can fucking that this fucking play I gotta go He said, Okay. He said, well I'm gonna pick you up like 30 seconds 20 seconds before the deadline is done because I don't want somebody to you don't cut you off. Yeah. And cut me off and take you ahead of me. So anyway he waited the and wait, I'm waiting the backlog it's three o'clock in the morning Oh shit, is he gonna do it any day he picked me up. I came back to my job. I retired a Montreal Canadian. That was luck and thank you see you later.

Michael Marcangelo:

Are you okay? If I asked a question about the addiction, your sobriety now? Yeah, that's fine. Okay, awesome. So I know that the movie The last Gladiator the documentary, it really paints a great picture of your career. But I think the best the better story is the fact that you were down and out. And you got back up. And then there was a quote, I think, I think was in USA Today, where you mentioned that doing that documentary helped you maintain your sobriety just talking a little bit about it. So without going too in detail if you don't want to When did you realize like that it was that you had a problem? That was really bad and what made you decide to change it?

Chris Nilan:

Well, it seemed like I knew I had a problem. I just didn't know how to get out at the end. And I guess really, I just knew my life was going nowhere. I was fucked up. You know, I was taking, Parker said that turn into oxy cotton, which Shang into heroin, something I said I'd never do. But I did. And I guess yeah, I just hit fucking rock bottom. And I needed help. And I had a phone number to call on guy from the NHL, who does all the interventions. He's from Worcester mass. His name's Dan crane. And I had Dan's number. And I called him and I said, uh, Derek, Ronnie said, Yeah, I said, Chris nilan. He said, oh,I've been waiting for your call. Anyway, yeah. Me on a plane the next day, and off I went. I was a trip of three months. And yeah, yeah, it was difficult time. But listen, it's part of my life. not who I am. Yeah. Well, it's like the hockey, but it was part of my life. It's not who I am. But I certainly do. I wish it never happened. In a sense. Yeah. When it did. So I found a wall on this shit. And I did it. It happened. I was addicted to pain medication, I ended up on arrows a terrible place to be. I'm an alcoholic. And, you know, I get back on my feet lunch. shunammite healthy today, and I got a happy life. I'm happier than I've been honestly. I'm pretty happy me like playing hockey. But I know I've been this happy in my life. That's amazing. I

Michael Marcangelo:

do just want to ask one question, because I was I was reading at the USA Today article. And there's one thing and now that I've actually talked to you, I can read this in your voice, I think would be because you were an enforcer. Right? Everyone will say well, do you think that your role in hockey had a lot to do with your addiction and your quote, my addiction has as much to do with my role as an enforcer as it did the fact that my mother stabbed me with a diaper pin when I was a month old. And now younger boys. It's such a good lie, because I feel like that's a picture people tried to paint because you took a lot of head blows. Right? You had to put oxys

Chris Nilan:

Yeah, they do. And, again, it's, you know, addiction is, is usually response from some type of trauma. childhood trauma could be one of them some type of abuse and the way you grow up the environment you're in. And, you know, Parliament could be in was probably the fighting. But, you know, like I said, No more of a issue than any other stuff I dealt with growing up. So yeah, it's your whole life, encompasses your whole life, not just support, you know,

Rob Kelly:

that's great to hear. And then to pivot to you just talked about growing up. I have a couple stories that my dad asked me to see this see if you would talk about with me. So one specifically, he said he didn't know if you would remember this. He said he was in like seventh or eighth grade and you were in science class together and you had this, this scalpel or Neato or something.

Chris Nilan:

In the ninth grade in class. I had like a tread on my pants and I went to cut it with the scalpel. Cut right into my I'm looking at him right now I get my leg like blood was pouring out like yeah that's funny I remember

Rob Kelly:

yeah he was sitting there telling me he's like man and I couldn't believe that all sudden I looked over there was fucking blood everywhere and Chris is just sitting there like

Chris Nilan:

I am afraid to go tell the brother because I thought he's gonna kick the shit out of me that's what they did back then the brothers right oh I run the Bennett I had I'm a I caught myself with the scout we looked at it I thought you're gonna fucking hit me off the handle the biology book, because he gets me off the fucking head with a French book before the bastard playing the song today. I'd knock his fucking teeth though.

Rob Kelly:

nakiska was deep out Briggs dinner. My next one. Eddie Harrison. Do you remember the net? Eddie Harrington? My dad? Yeah, is that you? Absolutely. worked his ass one time where he walked into school one day, and my dad looked at him and was just like, Oh, my God. I gotta know. Is that true? Or is he exaggerating?

Chris Nilan:

was another kid I fought that. I don't believe I call on Eddie Harrington. I think it was another kid that I bought that Eddie had a beef with to know I'm not sure what. Yeah, I did. Give that kid whoever it was and I don't think Yeah.

Rob Kelly:

That's awesome, man. Yeah,

Chris Nilan:

I couldn't believe when a kid big Lee a bag we I don't know. But yeah, Eddie hired. It was a tough kid. Late child sock. Did he play football and seeing your brother? I didn't play football. The coach or kind of tried to get me to play via the panto would I play football? I loved hockey. I just wanted to play hockey germaphobe my dad? No. Ah

Rob Kelly:

come on. Now Yeah. Yeah, I had to ask so Chris, man, so that wraps it up for us to tell everyone where they can find you. What they can look out from you. If you have any shows anything going on? Let him know.

Chris Nilan:

You guys, you can't fucking find me anywhere. So don't look. No. I'm on. I do a radio show on my jaw on TSN you know ESPN Canada? Yes. And 690 Montreal. I do it from noon to three every day during the hockey season. And we do you know NFL do so but it's hockey centric. Again. Watch chigan get the show online TSN 690 module listen live from my website. Not cold nylon calm. We got memorabilia. We got some awesome hoodies t shirts. new logo we did pumped out so yeah, that's where you can find me. Knuckles Island Klein and TSN 690 other net got across the board and see me and you fucking guys keep it up yet.

Rob Kelly:

I'm not getting across the board. That's for sure.

Chris Nilan:

I can get home though. I can get across the board. I think I can. Oh, they just don't. They just opened it. There we go. I'm coming home.

Rob Kelly:

Well told anyone go working for him now, Chris. Well, on that note for Chris nilan nyla no bald tire. Right? Right. Like a dope slap on me. Listen, if I ever actually meet you face to face, I will let you punch me in the face. Just for this story.

Michael Marcangelo:

Because you'd have to let him dude, you'd have to let him punch you right he? No, no,

Rob Kelly:

I would never do that. Have a Chris Nilan Mike mark and Joe and Bob Kelly has been an awesome guys.

Chris Nilan

American former professional ice hockey player and current radio host. Nilan played 688 National Hockey League (NHL) regular-season games as a right-wing for the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers between 1980 and 1992. He won the Stanley Cup in 1986 with Montreal.