BOSTON - For more than a decade, Charlie Coyle has been the pride of Weymouth, Massachusetts.
Throughout his rise to hockey's highest level - which included stops at Weymouth High, Thayer Academy, the South Shore Kings, and Boston University - the 27-year-old has been the South Shore town's favorite son. Since arriving via trade to his hometown team last February, his popularity may be at an all-time high.
But in recent months, Coyle has had some competition.
Three-year-old Quinn Waters - also known as 'The Mighty Quinn' - was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer, last February. Numerous rounds of chemotherapy, lengthy hospital stints, and a stem cell transplant followed, forcing Waters to be isolated inside the bedroom at his Weymouth home.
Video: Coyle Scores in 5-1 Win over the Sharks
Though the circumstances were far from ideal, the "Quinndow" became the place to be over the summer with numerous celebrities, athletes, and other local officials stopping by to pay Quinn a visit at his bedroom window. Coyle was one of those visitors, leading to a meaningful friendship and, eventually, a very special Tuesday night.
In recent weeks, Quinn's health has improved enough - his latest MRI showed no signs of new disease - to allow him to leave his home, which led him to TD Garden for Hockey Fights Cancer Night. Quinn, joined by his father, Jarlath Waters, dropped the ceremonial first puck before the Bruins' 5-1 victory over San Jose with Coyle there to take the faceoff across from Sharks captain Logan Couture.
"He's out and about and getting to live his life," said Coyle. "It's great that he's feeling healthier and healthier. I think it was pretty emotional, I bet, for them…you feel the emotions in yourself, you see him walking out, giving the fist pumps and the crowd on their feet.
"I mean, he deserves it - him and his family deserve it. You don't even realize or know what they go through and that's got to be just a terrible thing. I'm glad that things are looking up and that they got to come out here and be a part of this and for us to kind of be a part of their life.
"It was very special, and we got the win for him. They brought the luck for us and I think he kind of got us going a little bit."
Video: SJS@BOS: Mighty Quinn drops the puck on HFC Night
Waters also greeted the Bruins outside their dressing room before the game and made a very special request.
"He told me to score one for him," said Coyle, "so that worked out nice."
Indeed, it did.
Coyle cashed in for his friend when he tapped home his second goal of the season off a beautiful David Krejci feed from across the crease to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead at 5:21 of the second period. The tally gave him goals in consecutive games and was also one of his game-high seven shots on goal in 20:23 of ice time.
"I've been on the receiving end of some pretty good passes, back door," said Coyle. "But it's just trying to find those spots…the chances are there, I think the shots are there for the most part. It's just a matter of finishing the job and my teammates have done a great job the last couple [games] to kind of help me out and find me.
"I'm just trying to play the right way and whether it finds the scoresheet or not, I want to be doing the right things and being hard to play against. You see when you stick with it, it will eventually fall for you and you can help contribute to the team, which is something I want to do more and more."
Video: SJS@BOS: Coyle redirects in Krejci's stellar pass
Coyle has been contributing - on and off the ice - since his arrival to the Bruins just ahead of last February's trade deadline. The former first-round pick was, perhaps, Boston's best player during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring when he notched 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 25 games.
His performance, no doubt, was one of the main reasons why the Bruins were able to advance all the way to the Stanley Cup Final - a run that helped the Waters through the most difficult period of their lives.
"We were probably in [Quinn's] worst chemotherapy during the Stanley Cup Playoffs," said Jarlath Waters. "Quinn was probably at his worst, health-wise. But we watched every game in the room. The Bruins got us through some rough nights, just me and him. This means a lot. It does."
Even during the Bruins' magical ride through the postseason, Waters revealed, Coyle was offering his support, reaching out via a private Facebook message before Game 3 of the Final last June. The centerman then made a visit to the Waters home in August, bringing with him some very special Bruins gifts, including a signed jersey and a toy Nerf gun, which is Quinn's favorite toy.
"Charlie's been spectacular," said Waters. "For him to do that when he's going through the biggest, most important games of his career, it meant a lot. Then he came to the house, he made a real connection with Quinn. We're blessed to have that connection. This is pretty cool for us and he said it's pretty cool for him to see Quinn in a healthy way because the last time he saw him he was healthier, but still wasn't 100 percent - not that he's 100 percent, but he's doing really, really good. This is a very special, healthy moment for us and our family."
Video: Mighty Quinn's father talks pregame