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Baby brings Christmas joy to Lightning's Boyle and wife

TAMPA

His father is a professional hockey player, his mother a model.

But in the Channelside condo of Lightning wing Brian Boyle and his wife, Lauren, their baby, Declan, is always the center of attention.

Already 20 pounds at just seven months, Declan takes after his dad, who is 6 feet 7. He's also destined to share Brian's sports allegiances, Declan wearing a New England Patriots bib as Lauren feeds him his favorite squash-based formula.

The baby boy grins and giggles for the camera — a natural, much like Lauren, who has been featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The couple's sense of humor/swag is bound to follow, judging from Declan's blue and green pacifier, which reads, "Eligible Bachelor."

Brian and Lauren, who were married in June 2014, are bracing for an unforgettable moment, their first Christmas as parents. The tree has been up for weeks, Lauren decorating it with classic gold lights with red bulb ornaments. Wrapped presents are tucked neatly underneath (don't tell Declan, but he's getting a high chair, practical over plush).

As All I Want for Christmas plays in the background, Brian and Lauren cozy up on their L-shaped couch with Declan and their two chihuahuas, Phoenix and Kingly (called "King)." Boyle, one of 13 children in a humongous Irish Catholic family from Hingham, Mass., and Lauren, one of two kids raised in Orlando, plan to forge their own holiday traditions. There will be church on Christmas Eve in Orlando, where Lauren's family lives and they got married on June 20, 2014. Since Declan was born in May — Boyle rushing back on an overnight flight from New York after Game 2 of the Lightning's Eastern Conference final to make it — the experience has been equally unpredictable and unbelievable. And, knowing the Boyles, Declan could be the first of many.

"I'd love to have four (kids)," Lauren, 31, said.

"We'll see what the future holds," Brian, 31, said, smiling. "But we're very blessed."

Brian and Lauren first met in New York five years ago while on an awkward double date.

Friends of theirs invited them for drinks at a Manhattan bar.

"Neither of us wanted to be there," Brian quipped.

"We were wingmen," Lauren said.

Lauren had no idea Boyle played for the Rangers, his second NHL team since breaking into the league in 2007-08 with the Kings. Brian didn't know Lauren was a model.

"I just saw a pretty girl," he said with a chuckle.

The two kept in touch, and, by the following season, they were talking almost every day. Their first date was at a New York church, Brian asking her to join. Their faith was a strong connection, Lauren soon finding out that her childhood church in Orlando, Holy Family, was the same one Brian's sister Jennifer got married in.

"It was the first of many signs," Lauren said. "Like it was meant to be."

The courtship had many challenges, especially scheduling, as Brian was traveling with the Rangers and Lauren traveling to places such as Portugal for photo shoots.

Their wedding also turned into an adventure, thanks to New York's unexpected run to the Stanley Cup final in 2014. The big day was June 20, two days after a potential Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in Los Angeles.

"If we had won, I don't know what we would have done," Brian said. "A red-eye flight back after the Cup? I would have collapsed at the altar."

With about 225 guests, including 40 children, waiting in Orlando, Brian's Rangers were eliminated in Game 5 on June 13, a 3-2 double overtime loss. He had lost the Cup but got one heck of a consolation prize, his bride.

Lauren planned their wedding during a Stanley Cup final run.

So it was only fitting that Declan was born between playoff games.

With Declan growing fast, a cesarean section was scheduled for May 19. Three days earlier, Boyle had sat out Game 1 against the Rangers in New York, a back injury forcing him to miss his first game in three years. He came back to Tampa to get a cortisone shot, and Lauren drove him to the hospital. The two walked in, Lauren's belly popping out, Boyle hobbling in. "At the hospital, they're like, 'Who's the patient?' " Lauren said, laughing.

Boyle flew back to New York for Game 2 and returned to the lineup as the Lightning tied the series 1-1. Delivery was scheduled for around 10 a.m. the next morning, so Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman arranged for Boyle to join team doctors on a private plane immediately after the game and fly through the night. Boyle, still caught up in the high of the Lightning's much-needed win, hadn't wrapped his mind around the life-changing moment that awaited. Boyle got home at 4:30 a.m. and took Lauren to St. Joseph's Hospital at 7:30. The C-section went well, and Declan arrived.

"I've never been that scared and happy at the same time," Boyle said. "I was petrified, like, 'I'm in charge of this.' It was just joy."

Boyle wore the hospital bracelet that next week to practices and games, visiting Lauren and Declan once he was done at the rink. Lauren said she'll never forget holding Declan in her hospital room while watching on television a Lightning home game against the Rangers. Boyle was being interviewed at intermission by Fox Sports Sun.

"All of a sudden, Declan turns his head around and looks at the TV, he recognized his voice," Lauren said. "It was daddy."

The offseason gave Boyle plenty of time to bond with Declan.

While Lauren does most of the heavy lifting, getting help from parents Winston and Lori, Brian has his strengths.

"He's a great diaper-changer," Lauren said.

Boyle notes he had plenty of practice as one of 13 siblings. "I've done it for years," he said.

Boyle's favorite part is playing with Declan on the bed, watching him bounce around like "a maniac." They're living in a condo owned by former Lightning wing Teddy Purcell. Purcell's No. 16 jersey hangs in a frame on the wall, his "Big Buck Hunter" video game in the corner.

The couple notes most of their interior design contributions have been baby-related: toys, crib, high chair. And, of course, Christmas gear. Brian remembered returning home at 7 a.m. on Dec. 14, after a red-eye flight from Los Angeles after a three-game California road trip. Brian walked in and saw Lauren had surprised him by putting the tree up, decorating it.

"I was like 'Wow, this is real,' " Boyle said. " 'It's Christmas.' "

A very special one.

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Baby brings Christmas joy to Lightning's Boyle and wife 12/23/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 11:25pm]
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