Brian Boyle grateful for another NHL chance with the Penguins
For Brian Boyle, not playing in the NHL in the 2020-21 season was far from pleasant.
But he found something far more fulfilling to fill that void in his life.
A 13-season NHL veteran, Boyle was fortunate enough to attend his son’s hockey games and his daughter’s dance recitals this past winter and spring instead of flying to Raleigh, Chicago or San Jose for the first leg of a road trip in several cities.
“I spent a lot of time with my kids,” said Boyle, 36. “I’m just around with them at a fun age. My son started hockey. Being around him, he has just started. He went from being afraid to enjoying a snack afterwards. Now he really likes it and wants to go to the ice rink. It was a cool, really, really fun year for me to watch my daughter go dancing.
“There were a lot of great memories and great opportunities to spend a lot of time with people at home that I haven’t been able to do in a while.
Boyle’s abundance of free time last season wasn’t necessarily on purpose. He just never got any offers to play.
In addition to dressing for the United States in 10 games at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) world championship tournament in the spring, the Hingham, Massachusetts native took care of his family and trained, waiting for another chance to skate in the NHL. .
“I was practicing and trying to stay prepared and it was disappointing not to get the call,” Boyle said. “I thought I had a pretty good (2019-2020 season) then I got injured and then I came back to the (quarantine zones established for the 2020 playoffs). I thought I was fine. I didn’t think I was done.
Neither did the Penguins who invited the 6-foot-6, 245-pound center to training camp under a professional trial contract.
With injuries that will sideline Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to open the season, they need crosses. Plus, there’s a pretty deep story between Boyle and trainer Mike Sullivan.
A 2003 Los Angeles Kings first-round pick, Boyle’s first major NHL action came in 2009-10 with the New York Rangers. The fiery John Tortorella was the head coach while Sullivan was an assistant to that staff.
“He was always there to help me,” Boyle said of Sullivan in a 2016 interview. “Tell me what I needed to hear. It wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to hear.
Sullivan saw a player with potential who needed advice.
“Back when we got Brian, he was a young league player,” Sullivan said. “He was trying to establish himself as an NHL player and figure out what his strengths are and what his niche is and how he could carve out a role or an identity as a player in this league. We went through a process with Brian to try to help him understand this and what we thought was important to him and how he could leverage his strengths and potentially maximize his career. We worked a lot with Brian on the defensive end of the game. With his size and his skating ability and his reach, we thought he could be a guy who could be a real good conscientious player.
“You look at the length of his career so far. He’s been very good in every team he’s been on. At his age, he still continues to play.
Boyle clocked 14 minutes and 44 seconds of ice time on 18 shifts on Monday and recorded one shot while getting 9 for 14 (64%) in faceoffs as the Penguins lost their opener. against the Columbus Blue Jackets, 3-0, at PPG Paints Arena.
A cancer survivor who won a leukemia fight in 2017, Boyle also played for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils during his career. He realizes that adding the Penguins to this list is hardly a guarantee.
He’s just grateful to have another chance to play in the NHL.
“There are things I can still do,” Boyle said. “If I get the chance, I’ll try to do it. There will be no regrets at the end, no matter what.
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