Don Fulton tracked down Brian Boyle in Manchester and got an exclusive interview. He also talked to Teddy Purcell, so I’ll have that up later, along with a report from today’s morning skate.
The stories about skating in Southern California are great. I learned to skate at the tiny little rink inside the mall in Palos Verdes. It’s not even full-size, but it sure felt like it. The mall has changed, almost completely, but the little rink is still there.
Currently in his second year with the Manchester Monarchs, 23-year-old center Brian Boyle has 26 goals and 55 points for the team, and is a force on the power play with 14 man-advantage goals. The 6-foot-7, 250-lb former Boston College star had a brief but highly successful call-up with the Kings earlier in the season, which saw him score four goals in only eight games.
Boyle discusses his feelings about his NHL debut, the much talked-about switch from center to defenseman and back again, and how adding some feistiness to his game can only be a good thing.
Q&A with Brian Boyle
Q: How are things going for you guys as the season winds down and you’re fighting for that final playoff spot?
Boyle: I was actually just talking to some of the other guys on the team about that. It’s pretty exciting. We’re pretty hot right now and as a team we’re gelling and playing a little more consistent. We always knew we had something pretty special here, but some nights we’d come out and it would work, but others it wouldn’t. I guess it was pretty much just taking the lumps as first-year pros, because our team is pretty stacked with rookies, but as of now at 70 games in we hardly consider ourselves rookies anymore and we’re starting to gain some confidence.
Q: Did Dean Lombardi’s presence at the games a week or so ago have much of an impact on how you approached and played the games?
Boyle: We know with the tapes of our games going back to Los Angeles they see everything, but it was definitely a different feeling with him in the building. It was pretty exciting having him there and doing well. You just kind of wanted to be on your game at all times.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your call-up with the Kings and what it was like. Did you have the butterflies fluttering around?
Boyle: Oh yeah, I was really nervous driving from Manchester to Jersey for that first game and I was pretty much a wreck because I wasn’t even sure if I was going to get there in time. But actually it was pretty cool to be more worried about that than the game itself. I was very excited to get down there and get into an NHL game. It was my dream to get into the NHL and I got to play against Brodeur and see Brian Gionta out there, a guy I watched at B.C. My time out there was really special and I think it is something that will drive me in the off season in terms of motivation for next year.
Q: What was that first shift like?
Boyle: Coach sent me out and I don’t think I was as stretched-out as I wanted to be, but I wasn’t complaining, I was going to keep my mouth shut and work as hard as I could. It was a lot of fun.
Q: How does the NHL game compare to the AHL or even the college game?
Boyle: Everything is just elevated. The guys, at each level you play are just so much more skilled, stronger and definitely faster. They’re also smarter. It’s funny, you get to the NHL and there’s just not as much chaos as in college with guys skating around or even in the American league with guys flying around and trying to get as much speed as possible. Guys still fly around in the National Hockey League and the plays just happen that much quicker. But it’s almost like they can lull you to sleep if you are too cautious, and then a play just happened in front of you and you don’t even know what happened. In college it just seemed like things happened so fast, but it wasn’t as organized. It developed more in the American league, guys are stronger and more physical, but you it is just amazing the skill level in the NHL. The little plays that are done just habitually – it’s just amazing.
Q: How comfortable were you with the experiment of converting you into a defenseman?
Boyle: I was more comfortable playing back there in college, I mean I would just pick the puck up and skate forward with it as far as I could and if I got beat defensively I wouldn’t even try to skate backwards, I’d just pretty much turn around and play just like a forward on the back line. It (the change to defense) was something I was pretty excited about in the beginning. But then there was so much pivoting and backwards skating that was really tough for me and I didn’t adapt as well as I wanted to. I started getting more comfortable with it just before they switched me back to forward, so I was a little disappointed. I saw it as a challenge and I wanted to stick with it, but I’m definitely thankful that I’m back up front. I think it is definitely more natural for me.
Q: Coach Morris said you will be a dominant force especially if you add some more snarl to your game. Do you feel you have added the necessary nastiness to your game to be the force he is talking about?
Boyle: I think so. He’s told me that a little bit throughout the course of the year and I’ve told him that I’m ready and willing. It’s funny though, because all through my life and in college we really weren’t allowed to trash talk, get physical after the whistle or establish any kind of intimidation, I mean it was pretty much frowned upon at BC, to a point where I would get yelled at in games (laughs). So I just let coach (Morris) know that I’m up for it, but just let him know where I came from.
Q: Okay, the tall question – When you are a bigger guy, is there just an expectation that you will be a nastier, dirtier, more physical player?
Boyle: I think it can be, so why not utilize it. And from the coach’s perspective I need to be and I agree with him. You don’t have to go out there and be a heavyweight fighter and that’s all you do. But if you mix that in it just adds an extra component to your game. I’ve never been afraid of fighting or the physical stuff at all. I’ve just been told not to do it, until now. I’m willing now; it’s just learning when is the right time. I don’t have to do much of it now because we’ve got Kevin (Westgarth, 167 PIM), and Paul (Crosty, 198 PIM) down here, and even Drew Bagnall (98 PIM) steps in and take care of a lot of the fighting. We’re all physical and playing with an edge. It has definitely helped me as a player.
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
Boyle: There’s not too much to do around here, but we’ve got the Nintendo Wii, and when the weather isn’t too good we have some fun with the bowling and stuff. It’s pretty fun, it’s me, Teddy (Purcell), Trevor (Lewis), Jeff Likens, Drew Bagnall and Kevin Westgarth, we all live within a few blocks of each other, we all hang out and watch a lot of movies. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a lot like college because we’re all pretty much the same age and it is pretty much like a dorm, maybe a little better behaved (laughs).