Chris Nilan was a pugnacious and hard-working right-winger who played nearly 700 NHL games for three different teams. He was an enforcer, a tireless worker in the trenches, and an able scorer.
The native of the Boston suburb of West Roxbury played two years at Northeastern University. He was selected 231st overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 1978 and was considered a longshot to make the league. In 1979-80 he made his presence felt with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs of the AHL by scoring 15 goals and registering 304 minutes in penalties in only 49 games. The Habs called up him for the last 15 games of the season and dressed for five playoff contests.
Nilan was a regular on the Habs for seven and a half years beginning in 1980-81. He scored a career high 21 goals in 1984-85 playing chiefly on a line with Guy Carbonneau and Bob Gainey. The next season, the fiesty winger scored 19 goals and was a physical force when the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.
Nilan's reputation was such that he was placed on the Americans' 1987 Canada Cup roster. By January 1988 his deteriorating relationship with coach Jean Perron led to a trade with the New York Rangers. The fiery winger battled injuries during his two full seasons on Broadway.
Nilan was traded to the Boston Bruins in June 1990 for Greg Johnston and helped his new team reach the semi-finals in 1991. Midway through the 1992 season, Nilan got his wish to finish his career in Montreal when his original club picked him up on waivers. He retired in 1992 with over 200 points and 3,000 minutes in penalties.