There’ve been many enforcers in the NHL over the years. But no one with a nickname as good as ”Knuckles.” And Chris Nilan really deserved it. Nilan played in the NHL from 1980 to 1992 with the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers.
He’s widely acknowledged as one of the best fighters in league history and still holds the record for most penalty minutes by an American-born player.
Nilan was selected 231st overall in the 1978 NHL Entry Draft, but no one in that draft was a better enforcer than him, it would turn out. In fact, few have been better in league history, and it also earned him a place in the 1987 Canada Cup, as well as the 1991 NHL All-Star Game.
During his many years in the league, Nilan fought some of the most feared enforcers the NHL has ever seen.
Once, in a Cameo video uploaded on Youtube, he revealed who was the toughest of everyone he fought.
”They were all tough, you know, I took them all the same. I never underestimated a guy and never overestimated a guy,” Nilan said.
”Because hey, ’This guy across from me can kick my ass.’ And quite frankly, I had a couple of tough fights near the end. Stu Grimson, Jim McKenzie. But up until that point, or at the very beginning, Terry O’Reilly.
”He gave it to me pretty good. You know, I’d say O’Reilly. But I made some adjustments and became a better fighter as I went, so I’m happy with the way things turned out.”
Terry O’Reilly played with the Boston Bruins for all his career and helper the team to three Stanley Cup Finals. He’s one of the most effective enforcers in NHL history, and in 2002, the Bruins retired his No. 24 after he retired in 1985.