Boyes in for grand night

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Brad Boyes will have his usual cheering section of family members at the Air Canada Centre tonight when the Boston Bruins drop in to face the Maple Leafs. But there's going to be a special addition to the group.

Boyes' 84-year-old grandfather, Keith Boyes, will watch him play in the NHL for the first time. There's more to the story than meets the eye, however.

Keith Boyes has been living in the veterans ward at Sunnybrook hospital for the past couple of years and suffered a stroke about 18 months ago. He had used a walker to get around until falling six weeks ago, and then was confined to his bed.

Part of living in the ward involves a make-a-wish program. Brad Boyes' aunt, Mary Jeans, submitted a wish for her father that would allow him to watch his grandson play at the ACC against the Leafs tonight. Since Keith Boyes was told four weeks ago the wish had been granted by Sunnybrook, he has learned to use a wheelchair so he could attend the game.

"I'm really excited, just thrilled," Brad Boyes said after the Bruins practised at the ACC yesterday. "Over the Olympic break I came home and I was able to go visit him. We were talking and when I was asking him if he was ready for the game, you could see his face light up. I have been really looking forward to this in the past month. It's cool."

Keith Boyes, who served in the Canadian Navy in Russia during the Second World War, has not seen Brad play since attending a game in November 2003 at Ricoh Coliseum, when his grandson was with the Cleveland Barons of the AHL.

Boyes' father, Bob, and his grandfather will sit in the wheelchair section tonight.

"It's such a great program at Sunnybrook,"said Bob Boyes, who plans to bring a Boston sweater for his dad to wear. "We told him he was going and the next day he was up and dressed and practising with the wheelchair. He's just so excited about it."

Though the Bruins are struggling, have traded top offensive talents in Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov and are unlikely to make the playoffs, Brad Boyes has had a successful rookie season in the NHL. The Mississauga native and former first-round pick of the Leafs is fourth in freshman scoring with 49 points (17 goals and 32 assists) in the league and his plus-9 is the top mark on the Bruins.

The post-season possibility does not look good for the Bruins -- they're 13th in the Eastern Conference with 60 points, 11 behind the eighth-place Montreal Canadiens after Montreal's 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay last night. But Boyes is keeping his chin up.

"We have three games against Montreal, Toronto twice, Atlanta twice, and if we can win those four-point games, you never know," Boyes said. "Crazier things have happened. It's attainable. For us, it's two important points (up for grabs tonight)."


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