Originally written on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 11/5/14

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12: Dan Boyle #22 of the San Jose Sharks looks up at the scoreboard during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on December 12, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 2-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

NASHVILLE – From undrafted to top-pair defenseman, Dan Boyle hasn’t exactly taken the easiest road to NHL success. Not only is he an important piece to the San Jose Sharks’ puzzle on the ice, but Boyle is a valuable voice in the locker room as well.

Boyle’s hockey career started at Miami University, where he was a four-year letterwinner from 1994-98 and a two-time All-American. Boyle, who is ranked 11th all-time in points at Miami, was inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.

“My time at Miami was amazing,” Boyle said. “I was able to get an education, which was part of it, but college hockey was an amazing experience. It allowed me to get a little stronger. I’m still small, but I was even smaller back then.”

Standing at 5-foot-10, Boyle’s size was something that scared away NHL scouts and general managers at the time. He went undrafted despite a successful college hockey career and, as a result, has played with a chip on his shoulder throughout his career.

“It’s pretty hard mentally to get passed over year in and year out, but it’s a part of who I am,” the Ottawa native said. “Fifteen years ago, defensemen that were 5’10” were rare in the NHL. That was the turnoff for most teams – they figured I was too small to play.”

The Florida Panthers were the only team to take a chance on Boyle; they signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1998. Boyle bounced between the AHL and NHL for three years before finding his niche with the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the middle of the 2001-02 season, Boyle was dealt from Florida to Tampa Bay for a fifth-round pick. All Boyle did with the Lightning was rack up 253 points in 394 games and win a Stanley Cup in 2004.

“I never thought about winning the Stanley Cup. I just wanted to get a game in here in the NHL and an opportunity to play,” said Boyle, who also won an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2010. “There are a lot of Hall of Famers that never get to win (the Stanley Cup) once. I was fortunate to win it fairly early in my career, but I’m not done.”

The 35-year-old defenseman has skated the most minutes per game for the Sharks in each season since arriving from Tampa Bay in a 2008 trade. He has quarterbacked a lethal power play and been a consistent producer, tallying 201 points in 292 games with Team Teal.

“He has meant everything to us,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said of Boyle. “He’s a world-class defenseman that plays a lot of minutes on the penalty kill and power play. He’s one of the best in the league.”

Boyle, who has a Cup on his resume, is now trying to help the Sharks win that elusive, first ever Stanley Cup in franchise history. His teammates say he is quiet in the locker room and leads by example, but when he speaks everyone listens.

“His leadership is more on the ice,” Ryane Clowe said, “but when you have a defenseman that handles the puck as much as he does during the game and slows the game down, it brings a calming influence to the rest of the team.”

Thornton said, “He’s a guy that you are all ears when he talks.”

Whether Boyle’s experience and leadership can help bring the Sharks their first Cup or not, the undersized defenseman out of Miami that was “too small” to succeed at the NHL level has proven critics wrong over the course of his successful career.

“Most Canadian kids grow up hoping to play in the NHL, and the majority does not,” Boyle said. “It took a while for me to get here. I had fight my way and earn my way into the league, but 35 years old now and doing what I love to do is pretty amazing.”

Photo credit: Getty Images

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