BOSTON – It should be a wicked good day for Charlie Coyle, who on St. Patrick’s Day gets to play against his beloved Bruins for the first time in front of what he guesses will be more than 1,000 friends and family members.
Coyle, the Wild’s 22-year-old forward with the stereotypical New England accent, grew up 20 miles south of Boston in Weymouth, Mass. He comes from a huge hockey-loving family that includes former NHL and WHA center Bobby Sheehan and former NHL goal scorer Tony Amonte.
In fact, wearing No. 3, Coyle followed in Amonte’s footsteps by being a prep school star at Thayer Academy before attending Boston University.
Coyle’s father, Chuck, is one of four siblings; his mother, Theresa, is one of eight. Coyle has two sisters. So between immediate family, aunts, uncles and cousins, busloads of family members will be at the TD Garden on Monday night.
Coyle’s billets from his half-season in Saint John, where he won a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title and was playoff MVP, will be there. Co-workers of his parents are flocking to the game.
And, then there are his buddies.
“Every day since the beginning of the season, I get a different text from a friend saying they just got tickets,” said Coyle, who even learned that some of his former Weymouth High School teachers bought scores of tickets to sell to students.
Boston through and through
Coyle grew up a Bruins die-hard and has Boston blood through and through. He loves “chowda,” jams to Dropkick Murphys, has pictures of Boston sports stars all over his childhood bedroom. The 2010 San Jose Sharks first-round draft pick celebrated Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup with his friends and will try not to freak Monday when he stands across the faceoff circle from his favorite Bruin, Patrice Bergeron, whom he calls a “warrior.”
Coyle’s dad got two suites for the game and hired a bus to pick up 50 people from the cul-de-sac in front of his house.
“My wife and some of my sisters and my mother, it’ll be something special to see Charlie,” Chuck Coyle said. “For me, too, but I’m very nervous. I just don’t like blowing it up too much because everybody else is. I’ve got cousins calling and asking, ‘Can you take me down to the locker room before the game so I can talk to Ch-AH-lie?’ I’m like, ‘Are you for real? No one’s seeing him before the game! If you find me, you might see him for five minutes after because they’ve got to blow out of there [for Tuesday’s Islanders game].’
“I guess it’ll hit me when we get there. This is a dream come true for us because it was his dream.”
Chuck Coyle was a former captain at Weymouth South. He taught his son everything about hockey, Charlie said, and is beyond proud of his boy.
“He’s the same kid. He comes home and lives in his small, little room. He doesn’t care,” Chuck Coyle said, before letting out a big laugh. “Maybe he’s more independent. He doesn’t need us that much anymore. Doesn’t need us at all, really. I’ll call him up and say, ‘What did Coach [Mike] Yeo say after the game?’ I’ve got to pull it out of him. I’m like, ‘Will you speak?’ He’s like, ‘What do you want to hear, Dad?’ I say, ‘I want to hear everything.’ ”
“I give him a little bit,” Charlie said, laughing.
Season has been a struggle
Coyle’s second NHL season has been trying at times. The power forward made an impact as a rookie last season, scoring eight goals and 14 points in 37 games. This season, Coyle had an outstanding training camp and looked poised to pick up where he left off.
But in the second period of the second game against Anaheim, Coyle sprained a knee. He missed a month and enters Monday with seven goals, 20 points and a minus-9 rating in 55 games. He has bounced back and forth between center and right wing.
“I think that injury really threw him for a loop,” Chuck Coyle said. “It’s the first time he’s really been hurt. Every coach has really liked him at center and he likes playing it, too. So I think that mind-set of being in a defensive role and all the responsibilities that come with it have probably hurt him a little offensively. I don’t know what it is, but I think he just needs a little bit of confidence.”
Yeo isn’t worried. Besides being comfortable playing Coyle in any situation, Yeo is confident the point will come where everything clicks for Coyle. The only question is whether it happens this season.
Yeo equates it to Mikael Granlund. Granlund came into his rookie season in 2012-13 with high expectations, didn’t achieve them, returned home to Finland during the offseason, worked valiantly to improve on the areas that needed to get better and has broken through dramatically this season.
“This is only going to make [Coyle] stronger,” Yeo said.
Coyle has been a gym rat since the seventh grade. His work ethic is impressive for a youngster, and he has all the tools to become a future top NHLer. In addition, Yeo says Coyle has “got the pro side of it figured out.”
The most important thing Monday, Chuck Coyle said, is for his son to try to zone out all his friends and family members and just concentrate on playing a good game to help the Wild win, which will be no easy task against the best team in the Eastern Conference, winner of eight games in a row.
“Charlie doesn’t really get shaken too much. He’s pretty good staying on an even keel and pretty good under pressure,” Chuck Coyle said. “There’s going to be a lot of people with signs, a lot of people yelling at him, and I just don’t want him to get too worked up.
“I know he’ll be excited, and hopefully playing at home lights a little fire under him.”