It would be hard to find people in hockey that do not like Brian Boyle. Hard working, with good character, Boyle has a upbeat nature and is a family man, who has been through a lot and gives his all on the ice. So, it was hard to hear yesterday that the blood tests Boyle took during the training camp physical revealed that he has chronic myeloid leukemia. As I am familiar with this form of leukemia (my dad had it), I am sure that the test was confirmed by a look at the cells. Now, he is awaiting more tests to decide the appropriate treatment. Although CML was very difficult to treat not very long ago, new non-cytotoxic drugs were developed recently that changed both the prognosis and the difficulty of the treatment.
Boyle says that he expects to be on the ice on opening night for the Devils. Although we hear many players say that after being diagnosed with a serious illness, in this case, it may be more than wishful thinking. Treatment will probably consist of pills that will allow him to play. But, even if he is not ready for opening night, the whole hockey community has rallied around Boyle (and around Eddie Olczyk, who is fighting colon cancer) to give him emotional and spiritual support that is vital in fighting cancer.
This reminds all of us that the disease of cancer can strike at any time and that research is critical. The NHL and NHLPA started the “Hockey Fights Cancer” initiative in 1998, and NHL teams set aside one game a year to focus on the disease that affects so many fans, players, coaches, officials, and staff. Fans get placards to fill out with the names of those they know fighting the disease; they are then asked to raise them. It’s quite a moving experience to see how many people this disease affects.
So, while we are digesting Boyle’s announcement and acknowledging how there are more important things than the game of hockey in life, let’s also acknowledge the solidarity of people within the sport of hockey in fighting the illness. And acknowledge hockey’s fans too, who can participate by providing the prayers that Boyle says he knows works.
“We Stand With Brian.”