New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle has been cleared for full practice and will skate with his team on Sunday.
That’s excellent news out of the Garden State, as Boyle was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in September and placed on the injured reserve. The cancer afflicts the bone marrow and is treatable with medication, but there is no timetable for the 32-year-old’s official return to the hockey club.
Boyle signed a two-year contract worth $5.5 million on July 1 and has yet to skate for New Jersey, but the hope is that he’ll be set to go soon.
At one point, there was hope that Boyle would actually be able to join the team for the season opener. That clearly didn’t happen, but he had been skating on his own since the diagnosis to keep things fresh.
“I think with Brian, he knows really when he’s ready,” head coach John Hynes said in late September. “We’re not going to rush him. If he is ready and he can get a full week of practice in, that’s probably fine. He’s not going to get a pre-season game, so no matter what he’s going into a regular season game.”
Former NHL forward Jason Blake also battled chronic myeloid leukemia after a diagnosis in 2007. He was able to skate six more seasons before retirement.
For Boyle, things have taken a turn for the better and he’s optimistic about his chances of returning to play at a high level.
The Hingham native split last season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, posting a combined 25 points.
In 624 career games with the Maple Leafs, Lightning, New York Rangers, and Los Angeles Kings, Boyle has 169 points – including 93 goals and 76 assists. His best season to date was a 35-point campaign with New York in 2010-2011, when he scored 21 goals.
Boyle also has 106 playoff games under his belt, with 28 points in the post-season. He’s had back-to-back 25-game runs with the Rangers and Tampa and brings valuable experience to the young Devils squad. Getting him back would be a sure asset.