– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
PITTSBURGH — As soon as you are led to believe that there is nothing more that New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle can do that will top the amazing moments and feats that he has achieved in his National Hockey League career, especially amidst being the league’s face in overcoming adversity to reclaim his professional form, he proves all of us wrong again.
On Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Pittsburgh, it was Boyle, who at this point last year had just returned to the ice after being diagnosed with leukemia in the previous offseason, who once again left the hockey world agog and inspired, scoring a natural hat trick in New Jersey’s 5-1 victory over the Penguins on Monday night at PPG Paints Arena. It was Boyle’s first career hat trick, one that snapped a three-game losing streak for the Devils.
More importantly, it once again highlighted the amazing fight off the ice that Boyle has continued to wage against cancer. Last season, during the Devils’ Hockey Fights Cancer Night at the Prudential Center, Boyle scored in a win against the Vancouver Canucks.Just two weeks ago, Boyle announced that his cancer was in remission.
Then there’s tonight, as Boyle not only scored his first career hat trick, but recording a natural hat trick to boot, breaking a 1-1 deadlock midway through the first period and giving New Jersey a 4-1 lead by the time his personal scoring onslaught ended with 20 seconds remaining in the second.
“I love these nights. I really do,” Boyle said in the Devils locker room after the game. “Just the initiative & seeing the survivors on ice. Being recognized. Sometimes you feel kind of alone & quiet. It can be a dark place. At times, during the cancer fight, it’s difficult.”
Last season, after Boyle scored against the Canucks, he admitted that the emotions of the game, including having his name chanted by the Prudential Center crowd after scoring, got the best of him and that he shed tears during the game. He was emotional in the locker room after the game as well, though he did his best to deflect the attention off of him and focus it on his team, who picked up their first road win of the season tonight after four consecutive losses away from The Rock.
“Scoring goals is the most fun thing to do in hockey as an individual player, and if you can help the team win the game, especially with the way we’ve been going lately, it’s a big one for us.”