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The old switcheroo
MONTREAL | March 24th, 2011
The old switcheroo
One would have thought that by the 1980s, any sports fan worth his salt would have been familiar with the exploits of Guy Lafleur. “The Flower”, after all, had emerged as one of the most electrifying players of his era, posting six straight 50-goal-plus seasons from 1974-75 through 1979-80.

Ignorance for one luckless reporter, however, turned out to be anything but bliss.

As Lafleur recalls it, the Canadiens had traveled to southern California for an exhibition game in San Diego in the mid-‘80s. The team, by then, had already witnessed the emergence of a likeable character by the name of Chris Nilan, the noted tough guy who would go on to set a franchise record with 2,248 penalty minutes.

Arriving at the arena for the team’s morning practice, Lafleur was informed of an interview request with an apparently clueless local.
“The guy didn’t know who I was or know anything about hockey, so Chris and I decided to switch jerseys,” Lafleur recalled with a chuckle.

Nilan, thick Boston accent and all, introduced himself as Lafleur to the journalist before stoically sitting down for the interview. He proceeded to calmly discuss his scoring touch and offensive flair, waxing rhapsodic on his invaluable contributions to the powerhouse Canadiens teams of the 1970s.

The man known as “Knuckles” then proceeded to remove his microphone, thank the reporter for his time, and head out to prepare for the evening’s contest. The interviewer, pleased with his piece and the insights he obtained from a purported hockey legend, filed it with his superiors and contentedly awaited the evening’s game.

Needless to say, he was not amused when the puck was dropped that night and a distinctly different-looking Lafleur – and a curiously familiar-looking “Nilan” – hopped on the ice.

“He was so mad,” Lafleur said with a laugh, “But it was a good joke.”

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