NEWARK, N.J. -- Judy Boyle said her son is a survivor.
The mother of 13 children knew New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle would return to the ice after learning he had been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia prior to training camp this season.
"I knew there was a possibility that he would be fine and I held onto that," Boyle, who joined 36 other moms this weekend during New Jersey's inaugural mothers trip for Devils players and staff, said. "When they put in front of you, life or death, choose life. Brian is a survivor. I really think he's mentally tough, but really sensitive on the inside."
Boyle, 33, missed the first 10 games of the season after being diagnosed in September and returned to the lineup Nov. 1. He had 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) in 44 games prior to Sunday, and represented the Devils in the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game as an injury replacement for teammate Taylor Hall.
"He's been so sensitive to my needs yet he's very scheduled, very disciplined and I think he really wants to do the right thing all the time," Judy Boyle said. "That's kind of nice to know how patient he is, especially having your mom with you this weekend."
The moms joined their sons on the trip to Columbus on Saturday (a 6-1 loss to the Blue Jackets) before returning to Newark to watch the Devils play the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center on Sunday. It's the first time the Devils have hosted a trip for the mothers with their sons; they held a weekend getaway for dads in each of the past two seasons.
The schedule enabled the moms to get an idea of the NHL lifestyle their sons endure, from catered food to chartered flights.
"It was a wonderful weekend for all the moms," Judy Boyle said. "The last time I was alone with Brian on a weekend was when he was in high school at Saint Sebastian's School (in Needham, Massachusetts)."
Judy was asked her reaction when she saw how emotional Boyle was when he scored his first goal after returning to the lineup in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers at Prudential Center on Nov. 9.
"I think we all cried because it's sort of like that's the gift that God gave him," she said. "There's so few that play professional hockey and that's just an inborn gift that he nourished and grew with. I think scoring that goal was very spiritual, as well as physical, for him. The whole family was so happy."