Shaler's Boyle a miracle on ice
For many young ice hockey players, visions of playing at Division I colleges or the NHL some day fuel them. Scoring on a break away, making a game-saving play and hoisting a championship trophy are often the ultimate goal.
What is sometimes lost in the pursuit of glory is why the game is meant to be played, but the true meaning of the game is not lost on one particular player at Shaler.
Patrick Boyle was born with a medical condition known as VATER Association (which also is known as VACTERL), acronyms that represent the body systems in which it affects. The condition affects everyone who has it differently, and not all aspect are present in each person. For Patrick, he battled illness more often than other kids growing up. Getting over colds proved difficult and before he was a year old. Patrick had to have three metal tracheal stints put in which at the time was an experimental. Currently, doctors will use plastic, but in Patrick's case, the metal stints will have to stay in place as they can not be removed.
As a result, Patrick has some difficulty swallowing and often has a reflux to deal with. His kidneys are underdeveloped and also has some spinal issues, but through it all, Patrick has persisted, overcame and conquered, and is now doing something he was not sure would be possible. Being an active member of the Shaler varsity ice hockey team, playing the sport he loves.
“I was kind of against it at first,” said Darlene Boyle, Patrick's mom. “But, he wanted to give it a try.”
One of Patrick's older brothers played baseball with Jake Hetz, who also played hockey at Shaler and whose dad was the head coach of the Titans.
“His dad (Kevin) approached me a year or so ago and told me about Patrick,” Curt Hetz said. “Kevin didn't want to say no to his son, and I thought that if he wants to play, let's let him.”
Patrick tried out and earned a spot on the team, but even though making the team was an accomplishment in and of itself, Hetz couldn't help but notice something about Patrick.
“He had to learn from scratch, but he has the biggest heart in the world,” Hetz said. “He comes to practice and he is not afraid of anything.”
One of the many things Patrick had to overcome was the fact he is only (size). Hetz uses Patrick situationally in games, and hit teammates look after him to on the ice.
“I am careful when I put him out there,” Hetz said. “I told him that if a situation looks bad to just drop.
“The kids rally around him and understand his situation.”
Hit teammates keep a watchful eye on their friend, and the relationships Patrick as forged helps put Patrick's mom's mind a little more at ease.
“The other kids on the team are wonderful,” she said.
Patrick could not say enough about the team and how they have taken to him.
“I have the best teammates and I could not do it without them,” Patrick said. “I am thankful for them, and I can't say enough.”
On the ice, Patrick's role to help the scoring effort, but it may be his off the ice actions that really boost the team.
By taking the hard road to make the team, he serves as a reminder of how important heart and the love of the game can be.
Patrick said he looks up to the seniors on the team and it will be hard to see them graduate.
Working hard and making friends is all a great part of the game for Patrick, but make no mistake, his goal for the team is to get the W, each time out. The Titans record is (+-+) and with a huge win over North Allegheny recently, the playoff picture looks more realistic for the Titans. Battling is nothing new for Patrick, and as the youngest of four boys, things are not always handed to you.
“I love my brothers, and in a way, they look up to me,” Patrick said.
Darlene Boyle said her boys played baseball and soccer, but Patrick was the only hockey and player of the bunch. Through watching the game and seeing and participating in some street hockey games with the neighborhood kids, Patrick found a passion for the game.
When he is not doing his thing helping the Shaler hockey team, Patrick likes to work out on his own, play hockey video games and watch his favorite NHL player James Neal light the lamp for the Penguins.
“He goes to the net and tries to score,” Patrick said. “I try to be like him.”
Patrick may seem to be shooting for the stars by emulating Neal, but it's hard to argue that he is not there already. His goals may be different from many in the PIHL, but that
does not make the fact he reached them any less impressive.
“He is living and loving his dream,” Darlene Boyle said.
As far as the future, the junior is looking forward to a possible playoff berth this season, then he has his whole senior year. His scholastic interests include gym and math, and spending time with his teammates.
“He has such a big smile … he is happy to sit at the lunch table with the varsity team,” Curt Hetz said. “His skills have improved, and where there is a will, there is a way.
“I wanted to do my part, which was to give him an opportunity.”