Yesterday morning, just before former Boston underworld kingpin Whitey Bulger was convicted of racketeering, conspiracy, and murder, word got out that a Stanley Cup ring in his possession would be exempt from criminal forfeiture proceedings. But a larger question remained: How in the world did Whitey Bulger score a Stanley Cup ring?
According to the Boston Globe, court documents only indicated that the ring had been "a gift" given to Bulger by "a third party." Those documents did not say which championship the ring commemorated. But the obvious conclusion, according to numerous reports, is that the ring honored the Montreal Canadiens' Cup-winning season in 1986, and that Chris Nilan had been the person who had given it to Bulger.
Nilan, who played for the Habs in '86, was once married to Karen Stanley, the daughter of Teresa Stanley, one of Bulger's longtime girlfriends. Bulger even paid for the wedding. He also sometimes traveled to Montreal to watch Nilan play. That's Nilan and Bulger posing together with the Cup in the photo above.
All that said, Nilan says he wasn't the one who gave Bulger a ring. Now a broadcaster for TSN radio in Montreal, Nilan issued the following statement today:
"Recent media reports have inaccurately asserted that James Bulger is in possession of a 1986 Stanley Cup ring given to him by me. Those reports have no basis in fact. James Bulger was never given a Stanley Cup ring by me at any time.
I won a Stanley Cup ring as a member of the 1985-86 Montreal Canadiens. I gave that ring to my father, Henry Nilan. I am currently in possession of that ring as it is being resized as a gift to my son, Christopher.
In 1988, Montreal Canadiens general manager Serge Savard heard that I had given my original ring to my Dad and Serge generously presented me with a second Stanley Cup ring which I wear to this day.
I commissioned a jeweller here in Montreal to make three women's Stanley Cup rings for my mother, my former wife and my late mother-in-law, Teresa Stanley. My former wife and my mother remain in possession of their rings. Mrs. Stanley wore her ring in her casket and before her burial, at Mrs. Stanley's prior request, that ring was given to my daughter.
At no time, to my knowledge, did I or any member of my family give James Bulger a Stanley Cup ring. I have no idea where any ring in Mr. Bulger's possession was made and I hope that this statement provides absolute clarification in this matter."
In an interview with TSN radio, Nilan indicated that Bulger used to admire his ring, adding that he must have had a copy made on his own. Should the Bruins not win the Cup next year, that might be an approach for Jarome Iginla to keep in mind.