MONTREAL, APRIL 18, 2011 – Former Montreal Canadiens enforcer Chris Nilan, former NHL forward and successful businessman Robin Burns and newly appointed Montreal Juniors president Sebastien Courcelles participated in a special panel discussion dealing with violence in hockey at Marymount Academy in NDG. Mitch Melnick, the drive home show host for all-sports radio THE TEAM 990, wasethe moderator.
There has been a lot of media attention this year placed on fighting in hockey, dangerous headshots and whether the league is doing enough about it. The frightening injury suffered by Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens, when Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara brutally checked him into the glass a the Bell Centre even has some parents considering whether hockey is too violent a game for their children.
Nilan played 688 NHL regular season games at right-wing for the Canadiens, Bruins and New York Rangers. He racked up over 3,000 penalty minutes during his pro career, many of them earned against some of the toughest players the NHL has ever seen. A native of West Roxbury, near Boston, he was selected 231st overall by the Canadiens in the 1978 NHL Amateur Entry Draft. Always considered a long-shot to make the NHL, he knew how to play on the edge and how to take care of his teammates Nilan scored a career-high 21 goals with the Canadiens in 1984-85 and tallied 19 more the following season when the Canadiens won their 23rd Stanley Cup. He recently launched his own website (www.knucklesnilan.com), travelled to Afghanistan to meet the Canadian troops, participated in a series of oldtimer hockey games and worked as a hockey analyst on a number of radio stations.
Burns, born and raised in NDG’ is actually a graduate of Marymount . He started his hockey career with the Montreal Jr. Canadiens, where he played three consecutive seasons from 1964 to 1967. Prior to making the jump to the NHL and playing 190 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Kansas City Scouts and the Colorado Rockies, he toiled in the American Hockey League for the Montreal Voyageurs and Hershey Bears. Burnss founded the ITECH hockey brand in 1984 with the launch of his innovative fully clear facial visor, a first in the hockey protective industry and a product that is still counted in the line-up today. In May of 2004, ITECH merged with Mission Hockey to form Mission-ITECH Hockey Ltd. It was later sold to Bauer Hockey. These days he has a number of other business interests and charitable endeavors.
Courcelles spent five years in the (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), from 2000 to 2005. After his junior career, he completed a degree in Administration/Accounting at Concordia University while playing for the Concordia Stingers and then in the rough and tumble North American Hockey League. Upon graduation, he went on to an executive position with Bauer Corporation, allowing him to continue to pursue his passion for hockey. He was named president of the Juniors last month.
After a short YouTube video about Nilan, produced by EMSB computer technician and noted hockey blogger Kosta Papoulias, was shown the former Canadiens enforcer spoke about his career and why he dropped the gloves so often. “It is like having a bully in a school,” he explained. “I stuck up for my teammates who were being bullied. Respect each other in school. It is important not to pick on other kids.”
Nilan added that he can never see them taking fighting out of the game. “If you take fighting out of the game,” he remarked, “how do you put it back in if you realize you made a mistake?”
Burns agreed that fighting is a necessary part of the game, as long as it does not turn into goon tactics. Look at any arena in the NHL when there is a fight. Everyone is standing on their feet. And those hypocrites who do not like it are the first to stand up and shout ‘hit him!’”
Courcelles noted that fighting has been way down in junior hockey in recent years, but he recognized in the game in general headshots are way up. “When I was playing guys had more respect for each other. I played against Sidney Crosby in junior. Nobody went after him because he always had a teammate watching over him. In the NHL he gets hit, suffers a concussion and is out for months.”
Added Melnick: “I think the most talented players should be able to play without worrying about getting crosschecked.”