Brian Boyle was one of Marc Staal’s best friends when the two were Rangers teammates from the 2009-10 season through 2013-14, and the pair and their families remain close to this day. Staal was shocked to learn of Boyle’s chronic myeloid leukemia diagnosis on Tuesday and texted Boyle to send thoughts and prayers. Staal said Boyle seems like he’s doing well and feeling positive.
“I couldn’t think of anything else yesterday,” Staal said Wednesday morning. “It’s pretty unbelievable.”
In his first year with the Devils, who were set to visit MSG Wednesday night, the 32-year-old Boyle has the support of his former club and from players across the NHL as he begins his fight with a cancer of the bone marrow. It’s in its early stages and is considered treatable with medication.
“It was shocking, still shocking,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “He’s such a great guy. It’s just crazy how things just happen without your control. You really have to appreciate when you have your health. But yeah, I reached out to him. There’s not much to say, it’s just shocking. He’s a big man, has a big will too, so that’s a good thing.”
The 6-foot-7 Boyle left a lasting impression on his former teammates. Lundqvist said when thinking about Boyle he recalls his Boston accent and his size.
“His hands, every time you shook his hand you almost felt like a little kid,” Lundqvist said. “He was laughing a lot when he was around here, but still a big competitor. I like that about him. He competes hard. I really appreciated that part of his game.”
Staal was 22 years old and entering his third year in the NHL when the Rangers acquired Boyle in 2009 from the Kings. Boyle was 24 at the time, and Staal was surprised to find out how young Boyle was.
“I literally thought he was like 38 years old,” Staal said. “He’s only (two years) older than me; I thought he was old. We started driving in and out of the city together and became really close throughout their time here. He’s a good dude.”
Brian Boyle, who is now with the Devils, skated five seasons on Broadway for the Blueshirts.
(Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
According to Staal, Boyle is “really good at karaoke” and his go-to song to perform is Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
“He does it all word-for-word without a prompter,” Staal said. “That is not an easy song. So I always enjoyed watching him do that.”
Boyle is hoping to suit up when the Devils begin their season on Oct. 7. Former Islander Jason Blake was diagnosed with CML before the 2007-08 season, played all 82 games with the Maple Leafs that year and played for four more seasons afterward.
When Boyle was 14, his father Artie was diagnosed with cancer in his kidney in 1999. Eight months after successful surgery, the cancer was deemed to have returned in Artie’s lung, and he was given only months to live.
That’s when Artie, his brother-in-law and a friend went to Medjugorje, a religious pilgrimage site in Bosnia and Herzegovina. When Artie was scanned upon returning home, there was no trace of cancer.
“I know that prayer can move mountains,” Boyle said Tuesday. He’ll be receiving plenty from his former teammates.
“It seems like he’s loving New Jersey so far. They’re settled in,” Staal said. “Seems like he’s in a good place. Hopefully it stays that way.”