New York Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle has amassed a pretty impressive resume over the course of his 17 seasons in the National Hockey League.
A savvy defender and power play specialist, Boyle won a Stanley Cup with the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning and a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics. He's finished in the top six in Norris Trophy voting three times, and was twice named a Second Team All-Star. He holds the San Jose Sharks' franchise records for most points, goals and assists by a defenseman, and currently ranks ninth on the all-time list of NHL games played by undrafted free agents, despite losing an entire season to the 2004-05 lockout, and over half of the 2007-08 campaign to a freak accident in which a skate fell out of his locker and severed three tendons in his left wrist.
But as what may be his final NHL season draws to a close, Boyle says he's also proud of one particular off-the-ice resume item: Serving as a roadie for Faith No More.
It happened last summer, during the East Coast swing of the tour for Sol Invictus, the legendary alt-metal act's first new album in 18 years. Boyle, an ardent Faith No More fan, hopped on the band's bus in Philadelphia, and stayed on it for five nights and four shows, culminating in an August 5 performance at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. While it's not unusual to see pro athletes hanging out backstage at big concerts, Boyle was actually onstage throughout the set, dressed in the same white outfit as the rest of the FNM road crew, performing such duties as dousing drummer Mike "Puffy" Bordin with water while he played, or assisting Mike Patton with his microphone cable whenever the singer dove into the pit.
"It was an amazing experience," Boyle says. "I didn't do too much the first night; I was pretty much just watching. But by the fourth show, I was helping out every which way I could – dispensing VIP tickets, decorating the stage, bringing guitars and basses out.
"One night, something was wrong with Puffy's drum kit, and they needed some help with that," he continues. "I'd never even touched a drum kit before, but somehow I helped correct the situation – don't ask me how!"
"Dan really wanted to help," Bordin laughs. "We've never been the kind of band that has friends coming on the road to hang out with us; everyone who has a tour laminate works pretty fucking hard, and it can be a real drag having someone extra in your way. It's like, 'Who's that guy? What's he doing here?' But Dan was there working – that's just the kind of guy he is."
Boyle's love for Faith No More goes back to 1990, when he was a ninth grader at École secondaire publique De La Salle in Ottawa, and "Epic" – from the band's breakthrough album The Real Thing – was steadily climbing the Canadian charts. "I went to an artsy high school where everybody was kind of different," Boyle remembers, "and obviously, Faith No More was really different. I got into The Real Thing, and then I went backwards and got into the pre-Mike Patton stuff and of course I got into Mr. Bungle and went from there. I was hooked, and I've been a huge, huge fan ever since."
Despite his fandom, Boyle says he only got to see Faith No More once before the band's 1998 breakup. "I went to college at Miami of Ohio, and they played Cincinnati my junior year on the Album of the Year tour," he recalls. "I brought a couple of teammates with me who had never heard of Faith No More. And then I obviously didn't see them again until many, many years later."
Boyle, who also lists Deftones, Tool and Pantera among his favorite bands, says that he's kept Faith No More's music in heavy rotation throughout his collegiate and professional career. ("It has always been a big part of my pregame ritual," he says. "It gets me going.") And as with his college teammates, he's often tried to turn his NHL colleagues on to the band – with minimal success.
"Over the years, I've usually tried to grab one or two guys and convert them," he says, "but most of them are into the Kanyes and the Drakes and all that stuff, and that's not what I prefer to listen to. I usually bring my headphones [to the locker room], because most of the guys listen to dance music or rap, and it just drives me nuts."
Boyle was playing for the San Jose Sharks in the spring of 2010, when Faith No More played three homecoming reunion shows at San Francisco's Warfield Theater, the band's first stateside performances in nearly 13 years. "I told the Sharks PR guy to get me in," he remembers. "The shows had sold out immediately, but I was willing to sit in the rafters if I had to. He pulled some strings and, the next thing you know, I was meeting their manager, Tim Moss, at the back door, and he's walking me through the Warfield and then all of a sudden I'm in a room with Mike Patton and Mike Bordin. It was kind of surreal for me. I've met James Hetfield, I've met a lot of musicians and actors, and I don't get starstruck – they're people just like you and me. But with Faith No More, it was a little different. They were the guys that I grew up with, and I still think they're the greatest band. So I was a little taken aback!"
Boyle quickly hit it off with his longtime heroes – not least because Bordin, a hockey fan since childhood, was just as keen to talk about the NHL as Boyle was to talk about music.
"The Sharks were starting their playoff with the Colorado Avalanche the next day," Bordin says, "but here was Dan, dragging his pregnant wife around backstage at this noisy fucking rock show, and they're both totally smiling the whole time.
"They were just the nicest people, and we immediately got along great," the drummer continues. "It's like when you're playing a festival, and you meet guys from other bands – even if you're working for different circuses, you have something you can relate to, and Dan was like that. He did something fun for a living, he traveled a lot, it was hard and it's one of those things where you're lucky to do it and you can't do it forever. So we were all in that same spot. And it was super-cool that he liked our band!"
A friendship quickly blossomed between Boyle and Faith No More, and he returned the favor in 2012 by inviting the band to practice with the Sharks. "When I was a kid, I wanted to be a hockey player when I grew up," Bordin says, "so this was a total 'bucket list' thing, to put on all the gear. It was such an awesome thing for him to do for us – though I think he was surprised I could actually skate!"
"Yeah, Bordin was decent — I mean, not NHL decent, but he was OK," Boyle laughs. "I don't know if Patton had ever put on skates before, though. We made him our goalie; I literally had to grab him and push him out to the net, and he couldn't even stand up! He immediately went down, and I took a couple of shots at him; I believe the first one hit him right in the mask! It was pretty priceless."
Boyle further bonded with Faith No More in 2014, when he tagged along for their July 4 gig with Black Sabbath and Soundgarden at London's Hyde Park, and their appearance the following night at the Heineken Open'er Festival in Gdynia, Poland. Boyle – at the time a free agent – actually inked his two-year deal with the Rangers at the band's hotel in London, and the band announced the signing Twitter.
Faith No More can confirm that our friend Dan Boyle signs w/ the New York Rangers. pic.twitter.com/1JTlw2HvA9— Faith No More (@FaithNoMore) July 1, 2014
"I think Mike Patton actually signed the contract as a witness," Bordin laughs.
It was during the Hyde Park show that Boyle was really struck by the similarity between his job and the band's. "I was sidestage with Mike Patton, talking about the San Francisco Giants, and he literally went from talking about baseball to, 'Oh, hang on, I'll see you after!' – and he walked out onstage in front of 85,000 people!
"And that, in a way, is like us athletes," he continues. "We're in the locker room, talking about God knows what – and then a switch goes on, and we have to go out and do our job in front of 20,000 people. You have to perform; you have to go out there and work."
Boyle was in the midst of his summer workouts last year when he went out with the band on the Sol Invictus tour. "You would think that the summer would be my time off," he says. "But to be honest, I'm in the gym so much, and it's constant work. So it was nice to get away from all of that for five days."
Not that Boyle was slacking off, however. "Dan would work out in the back lounge of the bus, doing whatever daily exercises he had to do," Bordin says. "But it was different from his normal routine, and I think it was nice for him to be part of it."
Admittedly, Boyle had it cushier than the rest of the FNM road crew. "The true roadies were on a separate bus," he explains. "They're the ones who have to get there earlier; they're the ones with the crappier hours. I was kind of getting the VIP treatment, because I was with the guys on the bus. I had my own bed. But as far as putting me to work, that had nothing to do with the guys. Obviously, there was only so much I knew how to do, but I wanted to get involved. I told the road managers, 'Hey, if you need any help with anything, just let me know!'"
True to form, Boyle also used the opportunity to seek out new FNM converts among his teammates. "I brought out three or four guys from the Rangers to the Boston show, and they ended up enjoying it," he says. "I brought [Rangers winger] Chris Kreider to the New York show, and he really liked it. It was nice to expose them to a different type of music that they're not going to hear on the radio."
Despite his friendship with the band, Boyle says he was pretty blown away by the experience. "I was just a kid from the streets of Ottawa," he marvels. "I didn't think I'd ever get to play in the NHL, let alone for this long, or that I would win a Cup – and I sure didn't think I'd ever be onstage with Faith No More while they're playing. If I could go back and tell my 16-year-old self that all this was what's going to happen one day, it would be pretty funny to see my reaction!"
A self-described "wannabe musician," Boyle still isn't completely sure if he'll retire after his Rangers contract runs out at the end of this season. But if he does, guitar lessons will definitely be on the agenda.
"I have some beautiful guitars, but I can only play a few power chords," he says. "Music is definitely going to be one of my hobbies when I do retire; it has always been a big part of my life, and I've always felt that if I didn't play hockey, I would have been involved in the music industry somehow. I feel like I have a good ear for music, though not so much the skill or the talent.
"And hey," he laughs, "if the guys keep touring, and my wife allows me to go, I'd love to go out on tour with them again!"
And FNM would love to have him.
"I'm happy to see him skating well and contributing to the Rangers," Bordin says, "But Dan is welcome to come back out with us any time. Everyone enjoyed having him around – he was respectful, he was enthusiastic, he knew when to say funny things and he knew when to keep his mouth shut. He came out, he helped out and he never shit on the bus!"