VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Brian Boyle made his season debut Wednesday night for the Devils less than two months after being diagnosed with cancer.
"It’s been a long road," the 32-year-old former Lightning center said after the Devils’ morning skate at Rogers Arena. "I’m excited."
Boyle started to feel fatigued in August, and tests at the start of training camp revealed that he had chronic myelogenous leukemia, a form of blood and bone marrow cancer. The diagnosis was announced Sept. 19.
Boyle said he was blown away by the support he and his family received from teammates, the organization and the hockey community. "It was overwhelming," he said. "It was very touching. Obviously, it’s a situation you don’t want to be in, but we’ve got a good handle on it."
Boyle returned to practice Oct. 23, and he targeted the game in Vancouver as his goal to get back in the lineup about a week ago.
"Just coming on the road was a treat," Boyle said. "I was bummed. My 2-year-old (son, Declan) went as Batman (for Halloween on Tuesday night). I missed all of that. He had a blast. Aside from that, I’m pretty excited."
Boyle has to take medication in the morning and before he goes to bed, but that’s all the treatment he needs at the moment. He signed a two-year, $5 million free agent contract with New Jersey in July.
Boyle has 93 goals and 76 assists in 624 games in parts of 10 NHL seasons also with the Kings, Rangers and Maple Leafs. The Lightning traded Boyle to the Maple Leafs last season near the trade deadline after two-plus seasons.
"I love this game. It’s given me so much," Boyle said. "I met my wife (Lauren) in New York playing for the Rangers. Some of my closest friends I’ve met through hockey. I’m so blessed to be able do this, and we all are."
The Devils activated Boyle off injured reserve Wednesday as they opened a three-game Western Canada swing against the Canucks at Rogers Arena. Right wing Kyle Palmieri (left foot) was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 22 to make room on the 23-man roster for Boyle.
"It’s been a long road for (Boyle)," said coach John Hynes, who finalized the decision to insert Boyle into the lineup after a one-on-one conversation with him after Tuesday’s practice in Vancouver. "I know he’s real excited to play, and we’re really excited as an organization to have him back."
Boyle kept an upbeat attitude as he worked out alone after the diagnosis, patiently explaining what was happening to his teammates.
"It’s in character," said the Canucks’ Derek Dorsett, Boyle’s ex-teammate with the Rangers.