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Monday August 12th, 2013

Chris Nilan of the Montreal Canadiens Ex-Habs enforcer Chris "Knuckles" Nilan denies that Whitey Bulger has his Cup ring.  (Denis Brodeur/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

Chances are that if you're not living in Boston or its environs, the name Whitey Bulger isn't quite as familiar as George Zimmerman or Ariel Castro. But the trial of the 83-year-old mobster, who was convicted today of 31 of 32 counts including murder and racketeering, has captivated the city the same way those other trials held the attention of the nation.

And somehow it's a case that keeps coming back around to hockey.

The CBS affiliate in Boston today reported that Bulger waived his right to have the jury decide whether he must forfeit the $822,000 in cash, guns and other possessions that were found when he was captured in June 2011 after 16 years on the run. Probably a smart decision, considering there was no way he was going to win that battle, either.

So essentially, he's forfeiting everything without a fight  . . . well, everything except one small personal item.

A Stanley Cup ring.

The details of how the mobster wound up with the cherished championship souvenir are a bit sketchy (imagine that, right?), but the 1986 Canadiens ring is thought to have once belonged to enforcer Chris "Knuckles" Nilan. The Boston Globe reports that Nilan gave the ring to his own father and it then somehow made its way to Bulger. The Globe also reported that Bulger paid for Nilan's wedding to Bulger's ex-girlfriend's daughter, Karen Stanley, so the two were clearly more than passing acquaintances, but Nilan insists that his father still has the ring.

Bulger maintained that the ring was a gift from an unnamed third party, and not purchased with ill-gotten proceeds from his criminal ventures, so that apparently gives him some leeway to make the request. But that doesn't mean he can count on flashing it around the prison yard or passing it down to his grandkids. The government could choose to pursue a civil claim to obtain millions of dollars that Bulger allegedly stole during his criminal career. If that comes to pass, and Bulger doesn't have the hard cash, he could be required to turn over the ring to satisfy that judgment.

If that happens, it might be a good idea to pay attention to those government auctions of seized goods. Never know when that ring might turn up on the block. And remember, it was revealed earlier during the trial that Bulger had slipped across the border to Vancouver to watch the Bruins win Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

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