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Sharing their thoughts

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – News of Todd Ewen’s passing hit Jean-Jacques Daigneault and Chris Nilan particularly hard over the weekend.

Former teammates in Montreal back in the early ‘90s, Daigneault and Ewen spent four seasons together donning the CH and claimed the Canadiens’ last Stanley Cup title back in 1993.

“I was devastated when I heard about it [on Sunday]. Marc Bergevin knew that I’d played with him for a few years in Montreal. He came up with the news and it really affected me,” offered Daigneault, who was clearly shocked to hear of Ewen’s death at age 49. “Todd was a model teammate, a good person and a good family man. My thoughts are with his family. That was some tough news.”

While Daigneault admits that the two haven’t kept in touch over the years, he does have plenty of fond memories from his time spent playing alongside the Saskatoon native in La Belle Province.

“He was someone who was always positive. Obviously, as an enforcer on a hockey club, you have to care about your teammates. It’s not always easy to go out there knowing that you’re going to get into a fight with guys like Bob Probert or Stu Grimson,” recalled Daigneault, who would have likely seen Ewen drop the gloves just over 40 times between the 1989-90 and 1992-93 campaigns with the Canadiens. “It was a hard way to make a good living. What he did was tough, and he did it well when he played.”

Off the ice, Daigneault enjoyed spending time with the 11-year NHL veteran, whose career also included stops in St. Louis, Anaheim and San Jose. They shared a common interest in music, and Daigneault had a great deal of admiration for his friend’s sense of imagination and ingenuity.

“It happened a couple of times where I played music myself a little bit. We probably played the guitar together at one point or we probably found a piano somewhere in a hotel lobby where we could display a little bit of our skills. That’s the way he was. He was a creative person. He liked to draw. He liked to play music. He liked to write songs,” explained Daigneault, who is entering his fourth season behind the Canadiens’ bench as an assistant in 2015-16. “Often times, before hockey games, he used to take a roll of hockey tape and make all kinds of little toys out of it. Sometimes, he came up with things you never thought he could do with it. He was creative in that way, too.”

A tough guy in his own right, Nilan also recalls Ewen’s unique interests away from the rink.

“Just coming in when I got picked up off waivers back to Montreal [in 1991-92], he was a teammate. I always saw him with his comic books. He was just so big on that. I got talking to him one day. I was surprised because I hadn’t met many hockey players over the years who were into comic books like he was,” mentioned Nilan, who amassed 3,043 penalty minutes during his NHL career. “Todd was into collecting them. He bought some rare ones. He was always drawing, too. He had his own little thing going.”

While they only spent a short time together as teammates, Nilan always had a healthy respect for the way Ewen went about his business.

“On the ice, a guy who plays that style commands respect. I remember that big fight with Bob Probert [when Ewen was a member of the St. Louis Blues in 1987]. He knocked Probert out and he didn’t know who Probert was when he came into the league,” concluded Nilan. “He certainly hit him with a good punch, and then Probert came back at him and he was there to stand up to the challenge once again. Todd was just such a good family man, a great father. It’s just so sad.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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