LOS ANGELES -- As New York Rangers center Brian Boyle waited to take his turn on the podium for Stanley Cup Final media day Tuesday, former teammate Sean O'Donnell walked over, shook his hand and leaned in for a quick hug.
Boyle played all of 36 games for the Los Angeles Kings five years ago, but he still retains friends from the brief period that put him on the path to the NHL. Boyle, picked 26th in the 2003 NHL Draft by the Kings, will face his former team in the Final starting Wednesday at Staples Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
"I have memories from being here," Boyle said. "There were fun times just being the first pro team, first NHL team I got to play with. I learned a lot here but it was a while ago. I think I really became an NHLer in New York. Maybe yesterday and today, you look around the building and you remember things, but after that I think it will probably subside when we get to playing the games."
Boyle came up in the Kings' organization after a four-year career at Boston College. He played first for coach Marc Crawford and then for Terry Murray during the period when Murray was developing the Kings' younger players into what would become, under Darryl Sutter, a Cup-winning team in 2012.
Boyle remembers players such as O'Donnell and current defenseman Matt Greene taking him under their wing as he was trying to find his identity on a struggling team. Former King Peter Harrold was among those who also helped him.
"I was up and down so much one year that when I got called up he would just pick me up," Boyle said of Harrold, who now plays for the New Jersey Devils. "He was a newlywed at the time and I'd have the extra bedroom. He was really helpful. Obviously he's in Jersey now. There were a number of guys. We were pretty close."
Boyle was gone by the time Los Angeles broke its eight-year Stanley Cup Playoff drought in 2010. At the 2009 draft, the Kings traded him to the Rangers for a third-round draft pick in 2010, sending Boyle closer to where he grew up in Massachusetts.
He was glad to move closer to home, but he remembered what it was like in a Kings uniform when asked if he ever got recognized in Los Angeles.
"I was here for like five minutes," Boyle said. "Not really, but the fans that were here were very, very loyal fans. We'd see them at the practice rink. They were there when the team didn't have success, and was still there and loud when the building was pretty full, from my recollection. They were certainly on board with the Kings. We appreciated that when I was here. I knew that."