Nobody has ever questioned Chris Nilan’s toughness, but the former Canadiens enforcer has a big soft spot for dogs.
The Gazette’s Dave Stubbs reports that Nilan was living with his girlfriend in Oregon a few years ago, emerging from treatment to overcome substance addiction he’d developed through some 30 surgeries and the 251 times he fought in his unforgiving role of NHL enforcer. Jaime owned a pound rescue, a border collie/shepherd mix she had adopted as a puppy in Costa Rica, nursing it back to health.
“Jaime was working but I wasn’t, having just gotten out of treatment, so I had a lot of idle time,” Nilan, 54, told Stubbs. “I was focusing on my recovery, going to my meetings, but every day I’d get up and run the dog at the beach.
“It was therapeutic for me, honestly. With Jaime, the dog helped me get back on my feet.”
Nilan was in Afghanistan on a goodwill tour 20 months ago, visiting the troops for a third time, when their dog was fatally struck by a car back home.
“We went through a difficult time, a real rough time,” Nilan told Stubbs.
Nilan and Jaime, now living together in Montreal, have two new dogs.
“You come home after a long day and you want to talk about unconditional love?” Nilan told Stubbs. “That’s what our dogs give, and it’s pretty cool.”
You can read Stubbs’s column on Nilan and his dogs by clicking here.
You can read a column Gazette sports editor Stu Cowan wrote about the amazing comeback made by the pit bulls seized five years ago from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels by clicking here.
You can read a feature The Gazette’s Brenda Branswell wrote on the documentary film The Last Gladiators, which focuses on Nilan’s life as an enforcer, by clicking here.
You can read about Nilan being voted the Habs’ No. 1 tough guy of all-time by fans by clicking here.
Andrei Markov isn’t known as a tough guy, but the Habs defenceman dropped the gloves during a recent KHL game and it didn’t turn out very well. You can see the video of his fight by clicking here.
(Photo courtesy of Sylvie Brunet)