Nick Boynton a former Florida Panther, apparently isn’t aware of the Ex-Panther Factor that I’ve been writing about this post season. As you can see from the photo, there he is hoisting the Stanley Cup this past Wednesday night in Philadelphia after the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime.
Boynton if you recall, was with the Panthers for one season after coming over from the Phoenix Coyotes in the Olli Jokinen trade, along with defenceman Keith Ballard. Boynton appeared in 68 games for the Panthers and accumulated 21 points, and was a plus seven in his only year in Florida. I’ll remind you that Boynton got himself in head coach Peter DeBoer’s doghouse for questioning his playing time late in the 2008-2009 season. Boynton was curious about a benching during a game, and had asked DeBoer for an explanation between periods. When he wasn’t satisfied with the answer, Boynton continued to push the matter, and eventually a shouting match between the coach and player developed. Boynton was sent home from the road trip for insubordination, and was a healthy scratch for a quite a few games. Ultimately Boynton made it back into the lineup, but the damage was done and irreparable. He was not offered an opportunity to come back, and was allowed to walk as a free agent after the season was completed.
In July of 2009 Boynton signed with the Anaheim Ducks and ended up appearing in 42 games for them as a sixth defenceman. On February 1st of 2010, head coach Randy Carlyle told Boynton that he wasn’t good enough to play in the NHL anymore, and he was placed on waivers. Eventually he was sent to the Manitoba Moose in the AHL where he played nine games. He gave serious thought to retiring at the time, but hung in. Soon afterwards, the Chicago Blackhawks claimed him, and he first played with their AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceDogs, before getting a chance with the big club. He appeared in seven games for the Hawks, but was not expected to play in the playoffs.
With young Hawks defenceman Jordan Hendry appearing nervous, and mistake prone in the first three Cup Final games against the Flyers, Boynton was summoned after being a healthy scratch the entire postseason. Boynton played as though he hadn’t missed a beat. He was physical, confident, and reassuring as Brent Sopel’s partner. No offence to Hendry, Boynton was just more relaxed.
He was also on the ice for the game winning goal that was scored by Hawk forward Patrick Kane in overtime. One of the smarter moves by coach Joel Quenneville, which seemed to have worked again. Boynton was as surprised as anyone to be given the chance to play, but knew what he had to do. He’d waited his whole career for this chance and made no mistakes with it.
I caught a brief interview with him on Hockey Night in Canada’s radio show the other day, and he was as happy and gracious as one could be. A bit funny as well, as he told the story about having the Cup sitting next to him on the plane back to Chicago from Philadelphia. Asked how he was able to do that he quipped, “There’s a bunch of young guys here. I’m not that tough, but I’m kinda crazy. I guess they were scared of me”.
He sounded really happy and humbled by the whole experience. Yet truly grateful for his chance. In his brief time with the Hawks, he was made to feel like he’d been there all season, and still couldn’t believe what he had been through. His story is a case of real perseverance. Told that he wasn’t good enough anymore, and not sure what he was going to do, he didn’t quit. He didn’t give up, and he prepared for a chance that he hoped he might get. Because that’s what winners do.
I always liked him as a player, even before he came to the Panthers. He played hard, tough and was always willing to stand up for his teammates. The kind of player that you want to go to war with. He’s not the quickest, but he makes up for it with hockey smarts and hockey sense. And character. All qualities that you’d want in a player.
Congrats Nick. You deserve it!
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