Lightning coach Jon Cooper learned that Brian Boyle had been chosen to play in the All-Star Game from Tampa Bay Times beat reporter Joe Smith shortly after the Bolts' 5-1 win Thursday in Philadelphia.
"To be honest, I felt almost better than the win," Cooper said.
Boyle, a New Jersey Devils forward who played with the Lightning from 2014-17, was named to his first all-star team just months after learning he had cancer.
In the summer, Boyle was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a form of bone-marrow cancer that is treatable with medication. He underwent treatment during the preseason and returned to the ice in November.
On Thursday, Boyle was named to the Metropolitan Division squad as a replacement for injured Devils teammate Taylor Hall.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said he texted Boyle right after hearing the news.
"I know it's very special for him, especially considering what he's gone through before the season with the diagnosis," Stamkos said, "and if anyone was going to go through that we knew that Boyler would be the guy that was going to fight it.
"He appreciates everything he gets in life, and he was an unbelievable teammate. He had that fiery personality on the ice, but off the ice he was one of those gentle giants and just a great human and a great teammate. We were sad to see him go, but everyone who knows him has been supporting him since day 1.
"It was just special to see him come back and play an NHL game this year, never mind the season that he's had," Stamkos continued. "So, it's been so special to watch and a true inspiration, and we're very excited for him and his family that he gets to be an all-star, especially here in Tampa where he had some great memories."
Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov said Boyle helped him to mature as a player, on and off the ice.
"It's great to see him here, especially here back in Tampa and realizing what he's been put through this year," Kucherov said. "It tells me how strong he is mentally, personally, and just a great guy on and off the ice. When he was here he helped me a lot to mature and maybe be better as a person and a little bit better on the ice. Just a great guy, and I'm happy to see him here."
In addition to his shot-blocking ability, Cooper said Boyle's demeanor and selfless approach to the game endeared him to fans and teammates alike.
"He's a personality, and in a sunbelt market where we're trying to attract fans, he's somebody who kind of draws you in," Cooper said. "He puts other people ahead of himself. He comes from a great family, but when he's on the ice he just does all these little things that help teams win. I don't think it's a secret that every team he plays for somehow goes far in the playoffs."
For all of his contributions on the ice, it's something Boyle did off of it that Cooper appreciates most.
Even after he had been traded to Toronto in February 2017, Boyle returned to Tampa to take part in Cooper's "Coop's Catch for Kids" fishing tournament, which benefits pediatric cancer research. Boyle spent meaningful time with Tony Colton, the inspiration for the tournament, before Colton died in July at age 17 following a seven-year battle with cancer.
"He made this kid's life, for those couple hours, better," Cooper said.