Tag: Chris Nilan

Chris Nilan

Legendary tough guy Chris Nilan opens his life in “The Last Gladiators”


Chris Nilan’s career as an enforcer in the NHL was one that leaves many fans looking back on his career with reverence. After 13 seasons spent mostly with the Montreal Canadiens as well as short stops in Boston and with the Rangers, he racked up 3,043 penalty minutes – a total that puts him ninth all-time in NHL history.

As Nilan shares in his recently released documentary, “The Last Gladiators” [trailer here on YouTube], the life of an enforcer was a tough one (during and after his career) but one that he took seriously while holding true in believing he was more than just a guy who fights.

“I didn’t come into the league thinking, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be a fighter.’ It happened,” Nilan says. “I started playing tough and you end up getting challenged by these junior kids and here I am a college kid. They thought I was a p—y. I got challenged a lot and I started responding to those challenges in a way that got noticed.”

Guys like Nilan are rare these days. Players whose role on a team is dedicated to making sure teammates stay protected are seemingly on their way out with the game being faster and skill being a bigger focus. Nilan knows it’s different now, but still believes tough guys have a role in the modern NHL.

“I don’t think it’s used as a deterrent as it was. I don’t think it’s used as an intimidation factor as it used to be with teams like Philly and Boston,” Nilan says. “I hear everyone complaining about the instigator penalty, which I think is a foolish penalty anyway, but I think guys use that as a reason to not fight.”

“Today it just seems different. Knowing when Max Pacioretty got hit there in Montreal by [Zdeno] Chara no one did anything. I don’t care if it’s Chara and he’s big, that’s the perfect situation when something should’ve happened. I don’t care who you are, it should’ve happened.”

Street justice isn’t the way in the NHL anymore, but it was when Nilan roamed the ice. Guys like Terry O’Reilly, Dave Schultz, Bob Probert, and Tony Twist made stars of themselves in the late 70s and 80s by standing up for themselves and their teams.

The realities of playing that part in hockey are made abundantly clear in “The Last Gladiators” and it’s not glamorous at all. In fact, it’s hard as hell as the sad stories of Probert and Derek Boogaard show. Nilan’s story, as told in the film, nearly turned out similarly. But he found a way out and now he’s sharing that with the world as a motivational speaker and through his film.

When it comes to hockey though, there’s one joy that he’d always take over bringing the crowd to its feet through fisticuffs.

“Fighting for me, although it was difficult, it was easy. Fighting was second nature to me and I enjoyed to fight, but there was nothing like scoring a goal… I could’ve never played the game if I fought and sat the bench the rest of the game. I would’ve never lasted, I couldn’t do that and that’s what drove me so that never happened.”

PHT’s Morning Skate: Alex Ovechkin is hangin’ with Mike Tyson


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Alex Ovechkin gets to have all the fun hanging out with Mike Tyson. We’re sure Ovi knows what tigers do and don’t like by now. (Alex Ovechkin on Twitter)

Ottawa has a trio of youngsters on defense that are making Sens fans think of the 70’s Habs? Someone check the hyperbole meter. (Ottawa Sun)

Phil Kessel… The leader of the Maple Leafs? Sure thing, just as long as they’re not picking sides for pick-up games. (TSN)

Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan, and Jim Thomson all accept Don Cherry’s apology. Litigation threats are the new face wash. (Sportsnet)

Meanwhile, Cherry’s apology isn’t being bought by everyone, especially Bruce Dowbiggin. (Globe And Mail)

Time for the Jets to put out a distress call because of their bad start? Almost… (Winnipeg Sun)

News flash: The Bruins’ PK is still good. Not a news flash: Their power play stinks. (CSNNewEngland.com)

Marcel Goc is impressing those in Florida with his two-way play. We bet the Preds miss him too. (Sun Sentinel)

Could we see Erik Gudbranson and Steve Downie drop gloves again tonight? Perhaps… (Miami Herald)

The improved Ducks defense is strengthening them overall. Jonas Hiller must be giddy about this. (Orange County Register)

Don Cherry publically apologizes on CBC’s Coach’s Corner

2011 Home Hardware CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game

CBC lightning rod Don Cherry made waves two weeks ago when he publically called out former enforcers Chris Nilan, Stu Grimson, and Jim Thomsen. He said he was “disgusted” with the former enforcers because of their stance on fighting using words like “pukes,” “turncoats,” and “hypocrites.” Following the segment and some serious public outcry afterward, the three were considering legal action against the television personality.

Tonight, Cherry took the opportunity to apologize to the three former enforcers. From CBC:

“I gotta admit I was wrong on a lot of things,” Cherry said. “Three enforcers, tough guys, my type of guys, I threw them under the bus, and I’m sorry about it. I really am.”


“Chris and Stu never said that they took drugs because they were enforcers in the National Hockey League,” Cherry said. “Also, they never said they wanted fighting out of the game, that’s for sure.”

“I was wrong on that, 100 per cent wrong. And when you’re wrong, you have to admit it.”

You can see the full segment here.

What are the chances that the threat of a lawsuit had anything to do with the public apology. It was surprising nine days ago when Cherry publically went after the three former NHL tough guys—he’s been championing players like these for his entire career around the NHL. It didn’t take long for Chris Nilan to respond:

What do you think? Do you think it was good that Don Cherry apologized for his strong comments a week ago or should he have stayed true to his word.