Raked over the coals

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:29 PM ET


 TAMPA -- Less than half an hour after playing in the biggest game of his career, Dan Boyle was called into the trainer's room with the news.

 With little information and no way to sugarcoat it, captain Dave Andreychuk simply told the Lightning defenceman his house was on fire.

 Unable to tell him anything more than the fact the neighbours had reported the blaze at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Andreychuk and several teammates did their best to keep the 27-year-old calm before he rushed out the door and sped home to see the damage.

 With a million thoughts running through his mind, he neared his suburban neighborhood with the windows down.

 "I could actually smell the smoke three blocks away and knew I was in trouble," said Boyle, who arrived to see firefighters battling hard to douse the blaze.

 "When I got there, I didn't know where to start. I had so many questions."

 So many emotions, too.

 Learning quickly it began as an electrical fire that started in his basement game room and spread up to his bedroom and entire second floor, Boyle stayed at the site until 3:30 a.m. assessing what he had lost in the wreckage.

 "One third of the house is completely gone, including all my clothes," said Boyle, who considered himself lucky to have lost very little memorabilia, although one particularly important keepsake was damaged slightly.

 "The puck I used to score my first NHL goal in Florida -- that one kind of hurt a little. The puck is OK but the case is all burned. It's just a puck but, to me, it was a dream of mine."

 Much like attending a funeral, being fired or going through a divorce, there is never a good time to have a house fire of any degree.

 But given the opportunity of a lifetime he'd previously been focused on down at the rink, it made the affable Ottawa native wonder why it had to happen to him.

 "I don't know if this is some kind of a sign," said the sixth-year defenceman, who was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as top collegian at the U of Miami at Ohio.

 "It's reality -- sometimes in sports you think you're invincible.

 "The boys are trying to keep my mind on hockey -- it's not on hockey right now but, come tomorrow, it will be."

 Sporting a surprisingly upbeat attitude yesterday, Boyle said he was told the house sustained $300,000 US in damage and would take six to eight months to rebuild, forcing him to spend the summer in his Ft. Lauderdale residence.

 "Winning this would make the next six months easier," said Boyle, whose club hosts Calgary in Game 2 tonight down 1-0 in the Stanley Cup final.

 "I'm actually going to try to use this to my advantage and be thankful for some of the things I've got and received.

 "My folks were down about two months ago, so I'm thankful they weren't home and that no one else was hurt."

 It kinda put a 4-1 loss in perspective awfully quickly.

 "It was a tough night on the ice but, you know what, it's a house and there were a lot of personal things in there," said Boyle, the Lightning's most gifted offensive defenceman.

 "I'm 27 and I don't know any person whose house has been on fire.

 "You think of the strangest things -- I go in and I don't know why I thought about my passport.

 "The bag was all burned and covered with crap but I got the zipper open and the passport was fine."

 Off to the mall after practice carrying a bag of clothes from the team, Boyle slipped on sandals that still smelled like smoke while coach John Tortorella downplayed the incident.

 "It's fine -- that's just a bunch of wood burning," he said rather callously.

 "There's no one hurt. There's nothing serious that happened. His insurance will take care of it. Whatever the insurance doesn't take care of, I am sure he has enough money to spend and take care of it himself. That shouldn't be in any type of his mindset as far as what we're preparing to do."

 Easier said than done, John.


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