|Former Bruins enforcer Chris Nilan on D&C explains friendship with Whitey Bulger: ‘I’m a loyal person. He was a friend of mine’||12.19.13 at 10:49 am ET|
Former NHL enforcer Chris Nilan joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to talk about his hockey career, his post-NHL addiction issues and his friendship with Whitey Bulger that continues to this day.
Nilan, a product of West Roxbury and Northeastern University, was selected 231st (of 234 players) in the 1978 NHL draft but managed to have a long career with the Canadiens, Rangers and Bruins. He still holds the Canadiens franchise record for penalty minutes in a career (2,248) and season (358). He had 222 fights in his 13 NHL seasons, including 43 in 1985-86 during the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup-winning season.
Following his retirement after the 1991-92 season, Nilan had issues with alcohol and drugs, he was arrested for shoplifting and his 25-year marriage dissolved. Nilan says he has been clean and sober for three years, living with his girlfriend on the West Island of Montreal. He recently wrote a book: “Fighting Back: The Chris Nilan story.”
Nilan, now 55, grew up in Boston in the 1970s and fell in love with hockey while watching the Big, Bad Bruins. He made the NHL as a tough guy but worked to develop his game and ended up averaging 20 goals over two seasons in the mid-1980s. He said the drive he used to get him to the NHL came in handy when he hit rock bottom after his career.
“I had a dream of playing in the NHL one day,” he said. “I think the story somewhat reverts back to the things that — I had my transgressions and my drugs after hockey. Through alcoholism and drug addiction, I kind of reached back and used some of those things that drove me and got me to the National Hockey League to get me sober.”
Nilan said his turning point in his fight against addiction came after he started shooting heroin, something he promised himself he would never do.
“I was wrapped up in that for about eight months,” Nilan said. “And that night, sitting on the toilet, I basically overdosed. I woke up probably three hours later. I stood up and I fell forward and hit my head on the wall and knocked myself out again. And when I woke up from that I had I guess what you’d call the gift of desperation. I knew I needed to get help. I was in such a bad place. I was so beaten down; I beat myself down. I made a phone call and asked for help. It was the best move I ever made. … Clean since. And sober.”
|Andy Brickley on M&M: Brad Marchand ‘overthinking it right now’||12.18.13 at 12:00 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Bruins and the most recent questionable play by Brad Marchand.
Marchand, the controversial B’s winger, was penalized two minutes for boarding after hitting Sean Monahan in Tuesday’s win over the Flames. Calgary‘s Curtis Glencross called it a “dirty hit” by a “dirty player.”
“Yeah, it’s a bad hit. He’s looking right at Monahan’s numbers,” Brickley said. “If you ask Brad, he’ll tell you he thought it was just a little forceful push and not heavy body contact. But it’s still on the numbers, on a guy that — he knew Marchand was there. When you watch the replay, he take a look over his left shoulder, which is the right thing to do for Monahan; you want to survey what’s going on around you. That puck’s not going anywhere, so you take a look to see what’s going on behind you and left and right and then make your play. So, he knew Marchand was right there, and Marchand decided to give him that little extra forearm shiver/push/hit, whatever you want to describe it.
“That’s a two-minute penalty for boarding. It’s a good call. It’s a bad penalty to take. It’s a bad timely penalty to take. And I just think it’s part of what’s going on with Marchand right now, that he’s trying to figure his game out and he’s overthinking it right now. He’s just got to go out and read and react, play the game. But the hard part for him is he needs to play on the edge in order to be the most effective player he can.”
Regarding the possibility of benching Marchand, Brickley said that’s not likely considering the number of injuries among the team.
“They’re just so short on numbers right now; what are their options?” Brickley said. “If they wanted to reduce his ice time, if they wanted to — like they did with Milan Lucic late in the year last year, make him a healthy scratch so he gets up on [TD Garden Level] 9 and takes a look at things and realizes there’s a lot more he could be doing.
“One of the things that jump out at you when you watch Marchand play, when he’s playing well — and it could be at any time during the game, he could have six, seven real good shifts in the course of a 20-shift night where he’s really, really effective, and he’s using his feet, and he’s skating, he attacks the offensive zone, he backs the D off then he curls up and he looks for a guy coming late. But what he’s doing right now, even when he makes a good play, he stops skating. And when you stop skating, that tells you you’re overthinking it. And when you start to overthink it, now you just don’t play the game in rhythm and you just don’t do things naturally.
“And I think that’s what they’re trying to educate him on and remind him of, that’s the way you need to play. Because when you get into that no-man’s land, you’re not the player you’re going to be. But what are your options in order to get that message across? Right now, because they are just so shorthanded, they need Brad Marchand and they need him to play to his capabilities or somewhere close to that in order to be effective. Because they need to win and they need to put up points.
And he’s still probably your best option, even though you might want to try to do something else to get further attention.”
|Andy Brickley on M&M: NHL will ‘make an example’ of Shawn Thornton with lengthy suspension, but Brooks Orpik should have answered call to fight earlier||12.12.13 at 12:17 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni via phone from Edmonton, where the B’s play Thursday night, for his weekly discussion about the team.
“No question he crossed the line, he’s aware of that, and the league will obviously discipline him, use him as an example,” Brickley said. “This is the type of stuff that’s a hot-button issue in the National Hockey League — injuries, concussions, bad decisions, bad hits in the game. That’s what they’re trying to clean up, and it’s an opportunity for the league to really make an example of him, which they probably will do.
“Certainly in the moment, when we were doing the broadcast, when the initial hit [by Orpik on Loui Eriksson] was made and then Eriksson was concussed, obviously, no penalty on the play, I thought it was a borderline hit, could have been a penalty, could not have been a penalty. I have a hard time even with my experience knowing what’s a penalty and what’s not a penalty anymore. …
“When the first hit by Orpik was made on Eriksson, then he was challenged initially, if you remember, by Dougie Hamilton — no response. Then Shawn Thornton had the opportunity to challenge Orpik — no response. That’s when you know, because you’ve been there, that this is going to get ugly. Because if you’re not going to handle it the way the Bruins feel it should be handled, then people were going to start crossing lines and the game was going to get ugly. You knew it was going to happen, and I think that’s where it started to break down.”
Brickley said Orpik, who is known as a hard hitter but someone who does not fight, could have handled the situation better.
“This kid, he’s a good player, he’s a good hitter, he likes to hit in open ice,” Brickley said. “But he’s also got a reputation for a guy that hits the Loui Erikssons, the Jeff Skinners. He broke Erik Cole‘s neck from hitting him from behind. … When you have a reputation like that, you have to answer for those types of hits if you’re going to play that way. It’s plain and simple. That’s code. If you want to talk code, that’s code.”
Added Brickley: “Just flip it around if you want to have this kind of conversation. If Johnny Boychuck stands up and knocks Chris Kunitz on a borderline hit, interference, on-the-puck play, if you want to call it that, and Deryk Engelland comes over and challenges Boychuck, what does Boychuck do? … That’s how those plays get defused and you don’t get into the nasty anymore.”
|Penguins’ James Neal suspended 5 games for knee to Brad Marchand’s head||12.09.13 at 1:18 pm ET|
Marchand was getting up after being knocked to the ice when Neal delivered his cheap shot. Neal claimed after the game that the hit was not intentional despite video evidence that made it apparent he went out of his way to contact Marchand.
“While Neal does not kick or violently thrust his leg toward Marchand, it is our belief after reviewing this incident that this is more serious than simply not avoiding contact with a fallen player,” NHL directory of player safety director Brendan Shanahan explained in a video review of the incident. “While looking down directly at Marchand, Neal turns his skates and extends his left leg, ensuring that contact is made with Marchand’s head.”
The suspension will cost Neal $128,205.15 in lost salary, which will be donated to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
|Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘No maliciousness’ from Max Pacioretty on Johnny Boychuk hit||12.06.13 at 11:56 am ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday, following Thursday’s 2-1 loss to the Canadiens in Montreal.
The Bruins had a 1-0 lead after a period but struggled in the second as the Canadiens took control.
“There’s nothing there in way of explaining why they played the way they did in the second period,” Brickley said. “In fact, the four days off should have worked to their benefit in the second period. You knew you were going to get a better push from Montreal than what they were able to give you in the first 20 given the fact that this was game three in four nights for them, plus travel.
“But this Montreal Canadiens team is a little different in the sense that they don’t just try to beat you with their speed and their skill, they do have a little sandpaper to their game. They compete a lot harder for pucks, they know that they had to add that element to their game if they wanted to win the Atlantic Division with a team like the Bruins in there, and the Bruins being — I don’t know if it’s the gold standard, but certainly the measuring stick that you need to play similar to in over to win the division.
“That being said, you expected Montreal to have a much better second period, and for some inexplicable reason, the Bruins played maybe one of the their worst periods of the year — Claude Julien used the word ‘atrocious’ following the game, and you can’t argue with that. When they’ve played poorly in second periods this year it’s been for a variety of reasons, but the common thread is just that lack of — I don’t know if you want to call it a sense of urgency — for me it’s more paying attention to detail.
“I’m lost, really, for an explanation as to why they are so inconsistent in the second periods when they have opportunities to put teams away after 40 minutes.”
“It was a borderline hit. I thought the call was accurate that it was worthy of a two-minute boarding call,” Brickley said. “He tried to get him on the side and not from the back, but it’s in that dangerous area, distance away from the boards and a player almost with his back to you. What they’re trying to do is educate players, even though you’ve played the game a certain way for so long, it has to change because too many guys are getting hurt. They have to continue to work on that and further educate these guys and maybe tweak the rules a little bit to allow you to make different types of hits in those situations.
“But there was no maliciousness there, I didn’t think, from Pacioretty. It was just one of those reactionary hits, two guys battling in an area where always there’s a puck battle. And it was just the awkwardness that Boychuck went into the boards.”
Brickley said he was impressed with how the Bruins kept their composure after the incident.
“As far as the players are concerned, they did a terrific job, I thought, of maintaining some focus. Because your focus and your attention and your emotional feelings change when you see that happen,” Brickley said. “Your focus is totally on a first-place game against your arch rival, a game that you really want, a game that you should out-energize them, and you had some decent things happening in the first period. And now your focus changes dramatically.
“And the Bruins did a pretty good job of doing what they needed to do the rest of that period to take a lead into the intermission. But then to just give it away in the second period was so disappointing.”
|Shawn Thornton on D&C: ‘I think everybody wants [fighting] in the game’||12.04.13 at 9:49 am ET|
Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday for his weekly discussion, as the B’s prepare for a Thursday night game in Montreal against the Canadiens.
Thornton said players who join the Bruins should know how heated this rivalry can be before stepping onto the ice.
“You are expected to, but it probably took a game or three for me to actually really understand it,” he said. “Now I fully embrace it.”
Added Thornton: “You just get an appreciation for the deep-rooted history of hatred for each other. Being in that building and then coming into our building, there’s an energy level that you don’t really know about until you’re involved in it. I’m excited for our new guys to actually get a taste of it here.”
Despite the nastiness that sometimes has surrounded the rivalry, Thornton said he feels comfortable mingling with the locals while in the city.
“They’re very knowledgeable fans up there. They’re very passionate, obviously,” he said. “For the most part, they’re hockey fans. Even if they don’t like us, there might be some chirping and stuff, but no [more than that].”
There has been a movement to curtail fighting in hockey, but Thornton said he does not believe it will be banned from the game while he is playing.
“I think they want it in the game. I think everybody wants it in the game,” Thornton said. “But they’re kind of at a stage now with all the [concussion] stuff going on that the league’s been put in a position that they have to cover their own [butts] about it. I think that’s the biggest reason that you feel this sort of push towards I guess it being phased out a little. But I think it’s more about covering their own [butts] than anything else.”
|Daniel Paille on D&C: ‘We have a team that’s hungry’||10.02.13 at 8:15 am ET|
Bruins forward Daniel Paille joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning, the day before the B’s begin defense of their Eastern Conference championship by opening the season against the Lightning at Boston Garden, and talked about returning to the ice after last season’s exciting finish.
Although the Bruins lost the Stanley Cup finals to the Blackhawks with a heartbreaking Game 6 loss, Paille said he can look back now and feel proud of what the team was able to do.
“You had to appreciate what we did throughout the season with everything that happened to the city,” he said. “I think overall everyone was happy for our team and the way we played throughout the whole playoffs.”
The Bruins made some major adjustments to their lineup — most notably losing Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin and Andrew Ference, while bringing in Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson — and Paille said he expects the team to continue to be among the league’s elite.
“We count ourselves lucky that we feel like we have that capability to go to the finals every year,” Paille said. “Not every year is going to happen, but I think what makes us contend most every year — over the last few years, anyways — is that we have a team that’s hungry and wants to play and competes for each other. I think that goes a long way to making a championship team. We want to continue that trend, and hopefully we can keep that up. I’ve played eight years now in the NHL, and it’s tough to get there. I think the last two years that we’ve been there, I count myself fortunate for that.”
Added Paille: “With the guys that we lost and the guys that we brought in, I think it’s more the defensive style that I think our management was looking for in Jarome and Loui and especially having [Torey Krug], too. But at the same time, they bring that offensive capability that I think the other guys brought. So I think it will be a huge key for us going into the season, especially with two of them being hungry for the Cup.”
“Soupy, it takes a lot for him to stay down,” Paille said. “So for him to just limp around like that and barely able to skate, it says a lot about his character and the way he plays for us every day.”
Paiile is hosting a charity event to raise money for the Jimmy Fund on Monday at Tresca restaurant in the North End. For more information, go to jimmyfund.org. Listen to the complete interview below.
For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.