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The villains of Bruins history

03.12.10 at 5:06 pm ET
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It only took one play for Pittsburgh Penguins winger Matt Cooke to join the ranks of Bruins villains.

The hit that knocked out the Marc Savard, likely ending his season according to Boston GM Peter Chiarelli, has caused quite a stir in Boston. Shawn Thornton warned that “no one should push [the Bruins] around” despite the fact that the team did not respond to Cooke’s vicious hit. Mike Milbury said that he believes the Bruins are too soft. Savard’s mother even got in on the act, saying that she would have gone after Cooke herself after the hit. About the only person not up in arms over the hit is NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell.

Cooke will now forever join the list of notorious individuals in the minds of Boston fans. Here are some of the more famous villains in Bruins history.

Chris Nilan

Nilan grew up in Massachusetts idolizing Bruins great Bobby Orr and went to school at Northeastern. He eventually ended his career playing two of his last three seasons with the Bruins like he had dreamed, but it was a bizarre turn given his early career with the Montreal Canadiens.

Nilan was the Canadiens’ resident tough guy in the ’80s, leading the NHL in penalty minutes multiple times and earning the nickname of “Knuckles” due to his fighting habits. Naturally, he became a villain in the eyes of Bruins fans. Most famously, Nilan delivered a cheap shot to an unsuspecting Paul Boutileer, causing a bench-clearing brawl to ensue at Boston Garden.

You’ll notice in that video that then-Bruins coach Terry O’Reilly joins in on the brawl as well, getting into it with Mike McPhee. Interestingly enough, O’Reilly had his own history with Nilan.

Claude Lemieux

Lemieux was one of the most vilified hockey goons in NHL history. He seemed to get into disagreements with every team, particularly the Detroit Red Wings, most notably when he lit up Kris Draper in 1996 as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. Even though Lemieux won four Stanley Cup titles over the course of his career, he was more known as one of the most infamous instigators in the NHL during his tenure. And the Bruins were amongst the teams that did not take kindly to him, particularly Cam Neely, who called Lemieux a “gutless puke.”

Of course, Lemieux ended up in his patented “turtle” position when Neely went after him. He was always more of an instigator than an actual fighter.

Scott Walker

Before there was Matt Cooke, there was Scott Walker. The Bruins came into the Eastern Conference semifinals last year as the top seed, facing off against the Carolina Hurricanes after dominating the rival Canadiens in a four-game sweep in the first round. But the Hurricanes took a surprising 3-1 lead in the series, forcing the Bruins into must-win mode in Game 5.

And though the Bruins pulled it out, Walker’s sucker punch of Aaron Ward was the bigger story.

Ward called it “a joke” and Bruins fans were upset that Colin Campbell did not discipline Walker for the punch, which many felt was a cheap shot because Ward still had his gloves on and wasn’t ready to fight. To add insult to the injury, it was Walker who scored the decisive goal in overtime in Game 7 that knocked the Bruins out of the playoffs.

Ulf Samuelsson

It is a hit that lives in infamy for Bruins fans — one that contributed to the demise of Hall of Famer Cam Neely’s hockey career and led to the vilification of Samuelsson in the minds of Boston fans on a level previously held for the likes of Bill Laimbeer. Neely certainly had his own thoughts on his rival, calling into question the way Samuelsson played — a style similar to that of Lemieux, as Samuelsson, too, was no fighter. As a tough-guy himself, Neely took exception to Samuelsson’s on-ice style and his penchant for knee-on-knee hits, or knee-on-thigh in the case of Neely.

Samuelsson was well-known as a dirty player. He ended the career of Pierre Mondou in 1985, when as a member of the Hartford Whalers he delivered a high stick to the Canadiens forward’s eye. Hockey icon Don Cherry also was not a fan of Samuelsson, and said it was a matter of time before someone took him out.

As it turns out, Cherry was right. In 1995 the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Tie Domi leveled Samuelsson, then with the New York Rangers, with a brutal sucker punch that caused Domi to earn an eight-game suspension.  It was well worth it, considering he probably earned hero-status in Boston, and around the NHL, thanks to this punch.

Interestingly, Samuelsson’s son, Philip Samuelsson, is a freshman defenseman at Boston College who was drafted by the Penguins in the second round of the 2009 draft.

Read More: aaron ward, cam neely, chris nilan, claude lemieux