“We grew up Bruins fans,” said Artie Boyle of Hingham. But for the past week, one thing has been clear: Blood is thicker than Bruin.
During the Eastern Conference playoff series against the hometown Bruins, the Boyle family is cheering on the New York Rangers, and one player in particular — Brian Boyle, the tall 28-year-old center wearing number 22.
As the Rangers get ready to take on the Bruins in Game 4 tonight, Boyle’s family and friends back home once again find themselves in the interesting position of cheering for one of the Bruins’ most hated opponents. This is the playoffs, after all.
Artie Boyle said the Boyle clan has taken it in stride. One of the cousins, Christina Valente, made custom T-shirts that say: “Bruins? Rangers? We’re rooting for Boyle.”
“So everyone would stop asking who we’re rooting for,” said Artie Boyle, chuckling.
The backs of the shirts were emblazoned with Boyle’s jersey number. Boyle’s relatives and friends wore them proudly as they cheered him on during the first two games of the series in Boston.
The 6-foot, 7-inch Ranger comes from a big family: He is one of 13 children, ranging in age from 15 to 38, born to Artie and Judy Boyle. Throw in other relatives, and the size of the Boyle contingent swelled to as much at 50 at TD Garden.
“A lot of family and extended family . . . cousins, nieces, nephews,” said Boyle, who works in Braintree as a development officer for the Archdiocese of Boston.
“We pray the rosary before every game,” said Boyle.
Brian Boyle has been with the Rangers since 2009, so his family and friends are used to watching and cheering New York’s favorite hockey team.
The Boyles have seen their son’s hockey career develop from when he took his first strides at Pilgrim Skating Arena in Hingham when he was 3 years old. They rooted for him in high school, when he skated for St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, and then as he made his way through Boston College and to an NHL career that began with the Los Angeles Kings.
Artie Boyle said the family tracks Brian’s NHL career closely. The group texts from family members “never stops,” especially during playoff games, he said.
Artie Boyle is a quintessential hockey dad. He grew up with the sport and played goalie for Quincy High School and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He said Brian calls him every day to get his feedback.
“He’s always hard on himself,” said Boyle.
On Tuesday, Artie Boyle drove to New York to watch his son skate against the Bruins in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden.
When the teams square off again Thursday in New York, Artie Boyle won’t be in the crowd, because his daughter Gabrielle will graduate Friday morning from Endicott College in Beverly.
But when the puck drops, one thing is for sure: The Boyle clan will be watching from afar, and they’ll be cheering for 22. Gabrielle plans to watch the game with her classmates at Endicott.
“I’m surrounded by Bruins fans here at school,” she said. “Bruins and Boyle.”Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.