RMNB Crasher Julie Cannon wrote this piece about the New Jersey Devils’ Brian Boyle and his long and difficult road to becoming an NHL All-Star.
Being selected as an All-Star is an enormous honor for any NHL player, but Brian Boyle’s selection as an All-Star for the New Jersey Devils is arguably the most heartwarming of any this season. After a tumultuous start to his first season as a Devil and months filled of personal ups and downs since, Boyle’s participation in the All-Star Game is the culmination of a journey of perseverance.
As of last Wednesday, Boyle didn’t even know that he’d be attending the All-Star Game. The Devils’ original selection was Taylor Hall, who was sidelined the last three games before the break with an injury to his right thumb.
Few would have guessed early on in the season that Boyle would be chosen to replace Hall, as Boyle missed the first 11 games of his first season as a New Jersey Devil after being diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a form of bone and blood cancer that is, fortunately, treatable with medication.
Now he’s an All-Star.
Boyle played his first game with the Devils in Edmonton on the Oilers’ Hockey Fights Cancer night on November 9th, where he scored the first goal of the game. The goal was his first as a Devil, and his first goal since his cancer diagnosis on September 19th.
Just weeks later, Boyle’s family suffered an entirely separate cancer scare, one involving his two-year-old son, Declan. Luckily, Declan was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a treatable disorder that disrupts normal blood flow.
Even after being asked to participate, Boyle might have missed the All-Star Weekend entirely, as he was meant to join his wife and son at Boston Children’s Hospital as Declan underwent another operation during the All-Star Break.
But at his wife’s urging, Boyle accepted the Devils’ offer to stand in Hall’s place, and returned to Tampa Bay, his first time back in the city where he played for three seasons before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017.
It’s clear from the reception he received that Tampa Bay still loves him, even chanting his name as he was interviewed during the All-Star Game.
Brian Boyle interview complete with chants for him. pic.twitter.com/htJsfZPwmQ
— Raw Charge (@RawCharge) January 28, 2018
Every time Boyle was announced in Tampa, it was to raucous cheering. He received a standing ovation prior to the skills competition, and more cheers as he was introduced as part of the Metropolitan Division team.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) January 28, 2018
When speaking to the media in Tampa, Boyle remarked was touched by the love and support he was shown during the All-Star Weekend.
“I hope they know by now, this meant a lot to me,” he said. “This has been spectacular for me. I’m never going to forget this experience. They’re a huge, huge part of that. It’s a tremendous honor just to be here anyway. They made it that much better, for sure.”
Boyle has 11 goals and 17 points in 38 games with the Devils this season, giving him the 5th most goals on the team. The Devils currently sit as the second wild card in the Metro Division, after recently falling from second place in the division.
Headline photo: Mike Carlson
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