In Retirement, Boyle Desires to Be Remembered as ‘competitor'

SAN JOSE – It was March 6, 2013, and Dan Boyle had seen enough.

After a 4-1 Sharks loss in Calgary further extended a brutal scoring drought in which San Jose hadn't scored more than two goals for a dozen straight games, the veteran defenseman was seething.

“We’ve scored [bleeping] one or two goals the last [12] games. That’s it,” Boyle said. “You go through streaks when you’re not scoring. I understand that. But, [bleep, 12 bleeping] games in a row.”

Boyle’s career achievements are numerous, and his numbers outstanding. After 17 seasons in the NHL, he’s ranked 35th all-time among NHL defensemen with 605 points, has a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal, and finished in the top six in voting for the Norris Trophy three times.

But his fiery nature and desire to win at all costs were the traits that he and those around him preferred to emphasize in his official retirement press conference on Wednesday at SAP Center.

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Now 40 years old, Boyle brought up his lowest moment as a Shark, when he scored an overtime own-goal in a playoff loss in Colorado on April 18, 2010, inadvertently whacking a backhand through goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

“I wanted to go back out there and play right away,” Boyle said. “I didn’t feel like crying or hiding under a rock. I was obviously upset. I wanted to go back there and play.

“I think that’s in a nutshell what I want to be remembered as – a competitor that just wanted to be out there in the last minute, whether I was up or down. I wanted the puck on my stick. I wanted to make plays. That’s hopefully what people remember me for.”

Boyle’s former head coach in Tampa Bay, John Tortorella, echoed Boyle’s introspection.

“You could see the skating. You could see what you do as a player. I don’t think you ever received enough credit for what a fierce competitor you were,” Tortorella told Boyle. “You were the engine of our [2003-04] Stanley Cup team.”

Boyle has often pointed out that not getting drafted after a stellar college career at Miami of Ohio left him with a chip on his shoulder. In fact, one NHL coach told the five-foot-nine Boyle “to grow three inches and gain 20 pounds and you can play for me. … I want to thank him, too,” he said.

He was signed as a free agent by the Florida Panthers, but after training camp he didn’t even get a chance to play for their main AHL affiliate. Instead, he was shipped to Lexington, Kentucky, which was coincidentally the Sharks’ affiliate at the time.

All of those slights, though, turned Boyle into the player that he would eventually become – a borderline Hall of Famer that arguably helped to change his position.

In fact, a pair of star NHL blueliners have told him that he was a guy they looked up to while they were trying to break into the league.

“Two of the best defensemen in the game today, Drew Doughty and Kris Letang, I remember them coming up to me and saying ‘you were the guy I emulated watching when I was younger,’” Boyle said.

“Just like I felt about Brian Leetch, to have those two guys who are extremely successful say something like that about me – that, to me, means more than any points I had or goals that I had. … I think I helped change the game and the position a little bit.”

When the Sharks decided not to offer Boyle – their all-time leading scorer among defensemen with 269 points – a contract after the 2013-14 season, there were no hard feelings. Boyle admitted that he had a rough year, coming back too soon from a devastating concussion courtesy of a hit from behind by St. Louis’ Maxim Lapierre in mid-October.

Boyle said that he was “playing scared” the rest of the year upon his return a few weeks later, and didn’t blame the Sharks for letting him walk.

Even after signing a two-year contract with the Rangers, he knew he wanted to eventually return to the area and realized about halfway through the 2015-16 season that he was “mentally burnt out” and headed for retirement.

Boyle doesn’t have any immediate career plans, but he will enjoy spending time with his wife and two young girls, aged six and seven, in a property that is being built in nearby Los Gatos.

Just don’t expect him to lose that competitive edge, even if he won’t be lacing up the skates anymore.

“I believe in earning things. I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong, but if I play [cards] with my kids, I make them earn it. I don’t just give it to them because they’re six and seven,” he said with a laugh.

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