TAMPA — Lightning center Brian Boyle says he has witnessed his share of miracles.
The first, he jokes, is how his parents, Artie and Judy, handled their finances with 13 children in an Irish-Catholic family in Hingham, Mass.
"Things just kind of worked out," Brian said, smiling.
Then there's what Brian calls the "living miracle," Artie, 59, who beat kidney cancer that had been diagnosed as terminal. Diagnosed with metastatic renal cell carcinoma in 1999, Artie, a longtime salesman and former truck company owner, was told he had a 5 percent chance to live. His kidney was removed, but the cancer spread to his lungs. Doctors gave up hope.
"I was a goner," Artie says.
In a Hail Mary trip for help on Labor Day weekend 2000, Artie and a couple of friends traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina to the pilgrimage site Medjugorje, where millions have flocked since six people reported seeing an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1981. They meditated, prayed, even from atop a mountain. When Artie returned a week later for surgery, a scan revealed the cancer had disappeared.
Now "clean as a whistle," Artie plays hockey, golfs twice a week and works for the Archdiocese of Boston, giving back to the Lord. He wrote a book, Six Months to Live, available on amazon.com, and speaks to groups around the world.
"It's a wild story," Brian said. "He's been an inspiration. … It has changed my life."
Brian Boyle, 6 feet 7 and 244 pounds, is 29 and seventh in the birth order but by far the biggest kid in the family.
If he had grown up in Indiana, he might have played basketball.
"He could have played any sport and excelled at it," Artie said. "He probably could have been a professional baseball player. He hits the golf ball 400 yards. He was a running back in football. Just that unusual size that sets him apart."
But since Brian first put on skates at age 3, hockey has been his love, like it was for his father, who played goalie in high school and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Brian isn't the only athlete among his siblings, six surviving boys (one died at 2 months old) and five girls, ranging in age from 17 to 40. Artie said Michelle, 37, was a track captain at Amherst College; Brendan, 33, a four-time All-American diver; and Christopher, 36, played several sports before joining a seminary.
The family moved a lot, with Judy, who was savvy at real estate, finding the right fits for their budget and expanding family. Their houses were never bigger than six bedrooms, so, Brian said, it was normal to share one with three or four brothers.
Artie and Judy, married 40 years, always have been rocks.
"It's more than a job," Brian said. "You're a piggy bank, you're moral support, a psychiatrist, a disciplinarian. As I get older, it's even more impressive what they did."
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Brian starred at Boston College, making three Frozen Four appearances in four seasons before getting drafted by the Kings in the first round in 2003 (26th overall).
Brian said the Kings tried to make him a defenseman due to his size, an experiment that ultimately helped him become more responsible in his end as a bottom-six forward.
But he spent most of two seasons toiling in the American Hockey League. That was until Artie helped spark a move, meeting with Kings general manager Dean Lombardi at the Logan Airport Hilton in Boston in spring 2009. Artie told Lombardi if the Kings weren't going to use Brian, then trade him east. Weeks later, Brian was shipped to the Rangers for a third-round pick.
"I don't how much weight (Artie) had," Brian quipped. "But Dean helped me out."
In New York, Brian settled comfortably back into his natural center position and met his now-wife, model Lauren Bedford. Though he scored a career-high 21 goals in 2010-11, Brian's "bread and butter" was killing penalties, being a strong net presence and winning faceoffs. He thrived during the Rangers' run to the Stanley Cup final last season, earning a three-year, $6 million deal from the Lightning the first day of free agency, when he was on his honeymoon in Hawaii.
Brian brings needed size and experience to a young Lightning forward core, replacing the role left open by Nate Thompson's trade in June. And Tampa is close to Lauren's family in Orlando.
"It's a home run," Brian said.
One by one, Brian proudly gives status updates on his siblings, their jobs and kids — even their birthdays.
"That's easy," he said.
Most still live in the Boston area. There's Jennifer, 40, a doctor and mother of eight. There's Artie Jr., 38, who is autistic and in a group home that Judy runs and Boyle's sister Julianne, 24, a Boston College student, works at. Michelle, 37 is a real estate agent. Brendan, 33, works in retail and Kathryn, 31, at the Archdiocese with Artie. Brian still misses Joseph, who died two months after he was born on Oct. 1, 1986, due to sudden infant death syndrome.
No surprise, Brian's family played a large role in his June wedding at Disney World, which included 10 groomsmen and 10 bridesmaids, with separate parties for the adults and kids, who got their faces painted.
Two of Brian's 16 nieces and nephews were the flower girl and ring bearer.
And Brian was grateful his father could be there to see it. He even considered making Artie his best man.
"He's awesome," Brian said. "He's my best friend."