A Look at Brian Boyle’s Fandom.
Brian Boyle fucking hates the Boston Bruins. Boyle, 27, born in Hingham Massachusetts hates the hometown professional hockey team. This is not because it is ironic to hate the team everyone around you is cheering for, or because through some circumstance he became a Montreal Canadiens fan growing up. He hates them because he just happens to be a center for the New York Rangers.
It was news recently that Brian Boyle admitted he does not like the Boston Bruins. Shortly before their second meeting of the year, in which the Rangers again beat the defending champions, this time 3-0, Boyle talked about how he was not a Bruins fan. This is newsworthy because it is looking more and more evident that the Eastern Conference is going to come down to either the team from New York or the team from Boston (with the team from Philadelphia on the outside looking in still).
This revelation from Boyle would not have been newsworthy in 2008 when he made his professional debut with the Los Angles Kings. No one in LA gave a second thought as to whether their 1st Round draft pick (26th Overall) who played four standout years at Boston College, rooted for the Bruins during the season. They were more concerned about him hating the Sharks and trying to help them make the playoffs. The Kings play in the Western Conference and play the Bruins a maximum of two times during the year. It was no concern of what team he might root for.
Of course, Boyle did not always hate the Bruins. In fact, it is not surprising to find out that he grew up cheering for the likes of Cam Neely, Ray Bourque and Andy Moog. He would have been a freak if he lived that close to Boston, played hockey, and didn’t own at least 50 different black and gold t-shirts and jerseys. For someone as interesting as Boyle it would not be surprising if on draft day in 2003, he was holding out hope that his favorite hockey team would draft him and he could play in front of family and friends. Instead, he is currently a critical piece in the Rangers quest for their first Stanley Cup since 1994.
But did anyone really expect him to say that he rooted for the Bruins now? Wouldn’t that be a far bigger story if the center for the Rangers also had a poster of Tyler Seguin over his racecar bed? I wouldn’t expect Boyle to cheer on the Vancouver Canucks in the Finals last spring, but I doubt he took any pleasure in the team from Beantown parading around his home state with the Cup while he was out on the golf course. Any Ranger fan hoped the team was getting healthier, training, and focusing on getting better for the upcoming season.
For a Massachusetts kid, its not astonishing that Boyle is a huge Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots fan. During the lead up to the Super Bowl XLVI rematch of the New York Giants vs. New England Patriots, Boyle made a joking wager with teammates that his team would win. He boasted that the Brady to Gronk connection was going to take the championship. Eli Manning made sure he didn’t win the bet. On February 6th, line mate Brandon Prust tweeted a photo of a solemn Boyle adorned in a NY Giants jacked and Super Bowl Champions t-shirt and hat.
The look on his face says it all. The last thing he wanted to see in his locker after practice the day after the Super Bowl was anything with the lower case “NY” on it. Boyle clearly wanted his football team to win and was clearly pissed off that they didn’t pull it off. But as bad as the loss might have been for him personally, it was barely a blip on the radar in the long grind on the hockey season and the pursuit to lock up home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. The same day of the Super Bowl the Rangers hosted the Flyers and was able to dispatch of them for the fourth time in four chances this season. It was clear which game had more weight that day to Brian.
This all begs the question of athletes as fans. There is a perception of athletes as being above having rooting interest in other teams or athletes. But in the age of social media, where fans have unprecedented access to their favorite athletes the lines are becoming more blurred. When Blake Griffin posterized Kendrick Perkins, LeBron James was a complete fan boy on twitter. During any given all-star event you will see the majority of athletes with camcorders taking in the other stars and recording the festivities.
But when it comes to competing teams there is certainly no love loss. Everyone is out for number one. And for the Rangers they have one goal in mind and that’s to win the title this year. Boyle is a critical component to achieving that goal. While his offensive production is not as potent as other top centers in the league, at 6’7” he brings a jarring physical presence on the ice. Although the arrival of forward and known enforcer Mike Rupp has eased the burden to fight this year, he is still involved in numerous shoving matches after the whistle is blown, usually protecting his line mates and goaltender. His reliability in the faceoff circle and shot blocking fearlessness is a major bonus for a team that prides itself on getting to the dirty areas. He has become a fan favorite of the Madison Square Garden faithful who respect his blue collar work ethic.
The Rangers and Flyers were the focus of the remarkable four part series 24/7 on HBO leading to the Winter Classic showdown at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia. When the Christmas layoff came, the cameras followed Brian to Massachusetts and his parent’s house. Viewers were introduced to his parents, his 12 brothers and sisters and the countless little Boyle family members all over the house. Although Brian is a professional hockey player, he still has to compete for attention against his siblings who hold jobs as lawyers, doctors, and teachers. When he’s home his just the tall middle child in a comically large family.
I am sure I am not the only one who saw this scene and wondered whether ALL the Boyle’s had followed Brian’s footsteps and converted from Bruins fans to Rangers fans. Or whether they just cheer on their boy and still follow the B’s on NESN. Neighbors probably whisper about the traitorous Boyle boy who now plays for the enemy and reflecting on the great shame he has brought his family in his New England community.
It is also worth mentioning 24/7 revealed that Flyers star winger, James van Riemsdyk grew up in New York and was a rabid Rangers fan. He was drafted 2nd overall in 2007 by the Flyers and instantly gave up his childhood team in favor for his new employer. Although he may have idolized Adam Graves and Brian Leetch growing up, he has no affinity towards Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky.
The Rangers have two more regular season meetings against the Bruins. But they know that if they want to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals their biggest obstacle is most likely going to be through the defending champs. New York against Boston… A sports story as old as time. Brian Boyle wouldn’t have it any other fucking way.