Boyle still playing for respect in the NHL
Undrafted out of college, underappreciated by scouts and general managers and under the radar in All-Star voting, Dan Boyle is clearly the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL.
But with a Stanley Cup ring to his credit and a new contract waiting in the wings, the Lightning's quiet superstar is starting to make some noise and earn some respect around the league.
In this week's Facing Off, Boyle speaks candidly about how he copes with the one of the most demanding coaches in the game and how his lack of size almost kept him out of the NHL.
Question from David Amber: During your college days at Miami University of Ohio, you were a Hobey Baker finalist, but you still went undrafted. Why?
Answer from Dan Boyle: That's a very good question. You tell me, I don't know. Thirty teams, at least 10 rounds. To me, it's amazing that one of the best college players can't get even picked up as a late-round pick. It's ridiculous. It really puzzles me.
Q: What did the scouts and GMs tell you?
A: The one question was obviously my size. [I was] a defenseman at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds at the time; but still, you would think that one guy would say, "Hey, maybe we'll pick this guy and take a chance." But they wouldn't even do that, which I think is ridiculous.
A: Honestly, you have to be quicker and faster than them, and it's not always about the extra 20 or 30 pounds. It's about stick positioning and body positioning, and lets face it, some guys who are 180 pounds are stronger on the puck than guys who weigh 30 more pounds. I think it's crazy that a scout would pass on a guy because, on a stat sheet, he isn't as tall or heavy.
Q: It sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder.
A: I do. Until I retire, it's going to be the fuel that energizes me. People have overlooked me my whole career and still do today.
Q: Does it bother you when you see these 6-foot-4, 235-pound players, who don't have the same skill level as you, potentially taking away the chance for another Dan Boyle-type player to get a look?
A: Yeah, that bothers me. If I am helping any smaller defensemen get a look, if I am helping out in any way, that makes me more proud than anything. Eight years ago, you couldn't name five guys with my size in the league. Now, there are more and more smaller defensemen getting a chance. It's great.
Q: How did you finally get your NHL shot with the Florida Panthers?
A: At Miami of Ohio, the golf instructor was also a part-time scout with the Florida Panthers, which was a fluke. He basically was the one who got me in the door. His name is Bill Davidge [now the color analyst for the Columbus Blue Jackets]. He told the Panthers to take a chance on me. It's funny they signed me, but I don't think they knew anything about me. My first deal was for the league minimum and I got an OK signing bonus.
Q: You should probably send Bill a check every two weeks.
A: [Laughs] You're right, I probably should.
Q: You made your NHL debut in the 1998-99 season. What do you remember most about your first game?
A: It was weird. It was a 0-0 tie in St. Louis. Not sure how many guys can say their first game was a scoreless tie. On my first shift, I had a good scoring chance. I had a shot from the top of the circle, but the goalie made a nice save. It could have been one of those deals where I scored on my first NHL shift.
Q: You're a defenseman, so a scoreless tie isn't so bad.
A: True [laughs]. I do remember I got called up in Dallas against Dallas, but they didn't want to play me against the Stars because they were a bigger team. So, the next night, I got in against the Blues because they were a smaller team.
Q: The Panthers eventually traded you to the Lightning for a fifth-round draft pick. Why couldn't you stick with Florida?
A: Another good question. I don't know. I went through three coaches there. When I got there, it was Terry Murray. I wasn't ready for the NHL. It took time, but once I got going, I was playing 26 minutes a game. Then, Terry got fired and Duane Sutter came in and then, after him, Mike Keenan. I was either in the press box or just playing on the power play, which any player will tell you is impossible. So, I was never given a real shot to play for the Panthers.
Q: What was it like playing for Keenan?
A: I was only there for about 25 games, which I played in about four. I don't have any good things to say. I was never even part of the team, he didn't even think twice about playing me. The only reason I got in the first game was because Lance Pitlick had a baby that night. So I came in and [had a three-point game] and was named first star. That bought me three more games, and then, I was done. I don't have any good things to say about him.
Q: Why you were left off the All-Star team?
A: My understanding is that we already had two guys from the Lightning in Vinny [Lecavalier] and Marty [St. Louis] and they didn't want to have a third guy, so it is what it is. I looked at the other defensemen who were on that team, and at the time, I was second in scoring by defensemen. I think I should have been there.
Q: Would you describe yourself as the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL?
A: Yeah, I've heard that before. I look at a guy like Ron Francis, who was underrated his whole career. He did get some recognition, but certainly not as much as he should have. There are certain guys in certain markets where that's the case. Look back at the last five or six years, and take any stats you want, and you'll notice that I'm up there in all of them. But like I said, my coaches and teammates appreciate me and that's what keeps me sane.
Q: How often do you get mistaken for the Dan Boyle, the Enron finance director who was convicted of conspiracy and wire fraud?
A: [Laughs] It never happens. I read about him and have heard of him, but luckily, I haven't been mistaken for him.
Q: What do you remember most about winning the Cup in 2004?
A: The highlight was probably the last 30 seconds of Game 7. It was a one-goal game, I was on the bench and it was just so nerve-wracking. That was the best feeling, when the buzzer actually went off. Just jumping onto the ice, hoisting the Cup was amazing, too; but the final buzzer going off is what I remember most.
Q: What did you do that night after Game 7?
A: We stayed at the rink for hours. I think we left the rink at like 3 or 3:30 a.m. I had friends and family in, so we had a great time. After that, we went to Dave Andreychuk's house for a party. We were there until like 8 in the morning. After that, I think we had a parade or something. Basically, what I am saying is, it was a blur for the next three days [laughs].
Q: Your house burned down during the Stanley Cup finals that year. What happened?
A: It was just bad wiring. They know where the fire started, but I still don't know what started it to this day. It took basically the whole lockout year to rebuild the house, there was so much damage. Luckily, I didn't lose much of my stuff. They were able to save almost everything by putting it through some crazy oxygen process. At first, I thought I had lost all my stuff. It was pretty tough. The Lightning staff helped me out a lot with the insurance and everything else, which was a huge relief, especially since I was trying to stay focused on the Stanley Cup final.
Q: You're a single guy. Does dating become easier when you've won a Stanley Cup?
A: I actually have been dating the same girl since before we won the Cup, but I'm sure it helps the other guys [laughs].
Q: So, you've been dating the same girl for a couple of years. Hey, you're 30 now, I think you're getting close to having to figure things out.
A: [Laughs] Yup, we're at that point right now.
Q: So you're in negotiations?
A: We may need to renegotiate the contract [laughs].
Q: Speaking of renegotiating, when are you a free agent?
A: I have one more year on my deal. After that, I'll be an unrestricted free agent.
A: Money will always be a factor in deciding what I do. Anyone who says money doesn't matter is lying. The market reset itself after the lockout, but guys are still making some pretty good coin. Wherever I'm at in terms of statistics and all that will dictate what I get paid and what I deserve. We'll cross that bridge when we get there. One thing is, I've seen what it's like to play for a losing team and what it's like to not play. I don't want any part of that again. I'm not going to go somewhere for huge money to go down that road again.
Q: The Lightning have three offensive stars. As a defenseman, who is the hardest to handle one-on-one, Lecavalier, St. Louis or [Brad] Richards?
A: Wow. Geez, that's tough. You're going to get me in trouble. Vinny is the bigger guy, and in front of the net, he may be a little harder to handle. But Marty's speed and quickness make it really tough. We played against each other in college, and he's so shifty that he becomes a very hard target to control.
Q: And like you, St. Louis didn't get drafted either.
A: No, he didn't. We have very similar backgrounds. We both were undrafted, both were top college players, both smaller players, both signed on with teams where we didn't get a fair shake, both end up in Tampa, both win a Cup. Of course, he has an MVP, so I guess he's one up on me [laughs].
Q: I interviewed Lecavalier last season and he was telling me about a photo shoot he did for GQ. Is he the biggest pretty boy on the team?
A: [Laughs] He certainly spends the most time in front of the mirror. He and Brad are definitely the pretty boys on the team.
Q: At the best of times, your current coach, John Tortorella, is high strung. What is he like to play for down the stretch of this crazy playoff chase in the East?
A: You've got to have thick skin with him. You have to be mentally tough because he's going to be tough on you. But the thing with him is, there is respect there. He is my fourth coach, and some of the coaches I've had don't give you the respect he does. The thing he is best at is motivating the guys. He gets you up for games that you don't want to play -- those Sunday afternoon games in Washington or somewhere. It's the last place you want to be, but he finds a way to get you ready for those. He keeps you on your toes the whole year. He won't accept anything less than your best.
Q: How often does he call guys out in front of everyone?
A: As you know, he'll do it. He's not going hold back, whether you're a fourth-line guy or the star player. He's not afraid to challenge you. He just wants to be honest. He doesn't want it to be a back-stabbing thing, where you hear it from a scout or in the newspapers. I would rather get chewed out to my face than behind my back.
Q: How close have you or some of your teammates come to getting into a fight with Tortorella?
A: [Laughs] It's been tough. I've had run-ins with him. It depends on where you are in your career. If you're an up-and-coming rookie, you might not say anything because you're scared. But when you've been around the game for a while and you have your own opinions and your own ideas, there's going be a time when things clash. At the end of the day, you have to respect each other, and I certainly have respect for him and I know he does for me.
Q: Speaking of fighting, the NHL is reviewing its role in the game. What would you like to see happen?
A: I definitely don't want to see it go. It's a part of the game and it has been forever. As much as you hear fans don't like the fighting, there are a bunch of them that do. To me, the stick-swinging incidents and hitting from behind incidents are what need to be cleaned up. It's a guy's choice to fight. He doesn't have to fight. People have to understand that. Nobody is forcing a guy to drop the gloves. Yes, there is pressure that you don't want to be considered a [expletive], but you can choose who, if anyone, you will fight with.
Q: Who do you think is the most hated guy in the league?
A: [Sean] Avery, because of the way he plays and some of the stuff he has said publicly. I don't know the guy personally. He's obviously had a pretty good go here with New York, so I'm sure he's a player you want on your team. But as far as playing against him, he kind of makes the headlines a lot. I don't know all the details, but I will say he's the most hated.
Q: Which team is the favorite to win the Stanley Cup right now?
A: [Pause] If they get healthy, the Buffalo Sabres. Their goaltending is solid with [Ryan] Miller. I don't see the Western Conference enough to compare them, but as far as the Eastern Conference goes, they have the best speed and their ability to just score is awesome. I know success in the playoffs comes down to goaltending and defense, but you can't deny the fact that they're so quick. If they're healthy, no doubt they are the favorite.
ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.