When coach Jon Cooper found out former Lightning center Brian Boyle was added to the All-Star Game Thursday, his face lit up. Cooper said it almost felt better than the win that night.
And Cooper believed Boyle would get the loudest cheers at Amalie Arena this weekend.
He was right.
Boyle, 33, received a standing ovation Saturday before the skills competition, with the crowd chanting his name. It was, by far, the loudest, even more than the Lightning All-Stars. Boyle smiled and waved back to the fans.
"It was the time of my life when I was playing here," Boyle said. "I'm just happy to be part of this whole thing."
Boyle was the most unlikely All-Star, especially after getting diagnosed in the summer with chronic myeloid leukemia, a form of bone-marrow cancer that is treatable with medication. But Boyle said even harder was the news that his three-year-old son Declan got diagnosed with brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a tangle of arteries and veins in the brain that disrupt the normal flow of blood.
"It's was a scary situation" Boyle said.
Boyle said Declan has underwent a couple operations, including one on Wednesday in Boston. Boyle got added to the All-Star roster Thursday to replace Devils teammate Taylor Hall, but debated whether he should even go. His wife Lauren encouraged him to come. Doctors assured the couple Declan will be fine. "We're staying positive," Boyle said.
Boyle has a refreshing perspective, saying he's grateful to still be playing the game he loves. He's got a beautiful wife and two kids, Declan and eight-month old daughter Isabella.
"I live a fairy-tale life," Boyle said.
Boyle's former Lightning teammates were thrilled to see him here, lauding his impact from 2014-2017.
"It's been so special to watch and a true inspiration," captain Steven Stamkos said. "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."