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Brian Boyle: An Oldie But a Goodie

After a year away from the NHL, Boyle’s throwback style of play – if not his taste in music – is a welcome addition in the Penguins dressing room this season.
Brian Boyle

By Shelly Anderson

Not to suggest Brian Boyle is getting up there, but Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Brian Dumoulin, the dressing room DJ, has made some accommodations for Boyle this season by adding “some older music for him and songs he knows” to the playlist.

Boyle, who turns 37 in December, readily admits his musical tastes skew differently from what many of his younger teammates listen to. “I think some of the new, trendier, 20-something music is hit or miss for me,” Boyle said. “My dad had control of the music when I was in the car going to hockey and stuff. I guess you could say I was cultured that way, listening to a lot of Billy Joel and Don McLean. We’d get some Meat Loaf. When we really wanted to get jacked up, we’d get some Bonnie Tyler ‘(Holding Out For) A Hero.’ ”

Rockin’ stuff.

Tunes aside, Boyle is like a kid again – albeit a big one – serving as the Penguins’ fourth-line center after going without a gig last season. He accepted a professional tryout with the Pens for training camp, and to the surprise of no one who paid attention, he eventually earned a one-year, $750,000 deal with the club.

Near the end of an early-season practice, Boyle drifted out of character and did his best Sidney Crosby impersonation when he pulled a between-the-legs move to beat goalie Casey DeSmith in tight. He accepted high fives as he high-stepped toward the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex blueline.

“I’m just so thrilled to be here,” Boyle said. He added that after sitting out last season and not knowing if he’d get another shot in the NHL, getting a call from the Penguins was extra enticing because, “I’ve been close a couple times to winning. I really, really want to have a chance to get back in the playoffs and have a chance to win.”

Pittsburgh is the eighth NHL landing spot for Boyle, an L.A. Kings 2003 first-rounder who’s skated more than 900 combined regular-season and playoff games. During his journey, he beat chronic myeloid leukemia, a rare cancer of the bone marrow. That fight earned him the 2018 Masterton Trophy.

Boyle brings the experience and savviness of a veteran, a player who can reliably execute a two-way game, kill penalties, take draws and create net-front havoc. He’s someone who has leadership qualities – and size. As in 6-foot-6, 245 pounds and unafraid to throw it around.

The Penguins have seemed to need that kind of physical presence for years, but when then-GM Jim Rutherford brought in Ryan Reaves in June 2017, coach Mike Sullivan barely used him, and Reaves lasted less than a season before he was shipped out of town.

But Boyle isn’t Reaves, and Sullivan has embraced the Pens’ newest signee. “I know he was motivated to play last year, and he didn’t get the opportunity,” Sullivan said. “I do think that when a player goes through that type of experience, and Brian is a smart guy, he gets it, it offers that player a certain perspective. He doesn’t take one day for granted. You can see the passion in his body language. He loves to play. He loves to be around the team. His influence on the rest of the group has been great in that regard.”

Boyle has made sacrifices for this opportunity, primarily living away from his family during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wife Lauren, son Declan and daughter Isabella are based in his hometown of Hingham, Mass. “When they come here, they take precautions,” Boyle said. “They test before they get here, they test when they’re here, they test when they get home. We probably kind of go a little bit overboard with it, but I’ve still got to see them.”

Although Boyle is Pittsburgh’s elder statesman by two weeks over Jeff Carter, he tends to evoke an earlier generation. He is the only visorless Pen. He plays a heavier game, not so much the speed-based style that is de rigueur.

And he’s more of a Billy Joel guy than a Billie Eilish aficionado. But he’ll listen to anything if it means being back in the NHL. “There’s all different kinds of music I’m into,” Boyle said. “If it’s at a good decibel level and the guys are in there ready to play, I get excited either way.” 

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