Nick Boynton first became known to scouts while playing junior A in the Metropolitan Toronto Junior Hockey League. He played for the Caledon Canadiens, just a few minutes from his home in Nobelton, Ontario.
A mature and promising talent with good size, the Ottawa 67's selected him third overall in the 1995 OHL midget draft. Under the tutelage of legendary coach Brian Kilrea, he became a top NHL prospect.
"I learned how to play the game a lot better positionally with Ottawa and came to understand the game a lot better," Boynton said.
And it all paid off when he endedhis junior career with a Memorial Cup title and the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the tournament's MVP in 1999.
The Boston Bruins liked what they saw - a big mobile defenseman who could run a power play. They selected him with the 21st overall draft pick in the 1999 NHL Draft. It was actually the second time he was drafted. The Washington Capitals originally drafted Boynton ninth overall in 1997 but the two sides never agreed to a contract. He re-entered the draft, much to Boston's delight.
Boynton's destiny to be a star in the NHL was put in serious jeopardy in the summer of 1999. The 20 year was supposed to be working on his family's farm and getting ready for the upcoming NHL training camp when he became so fatigued that he couldn't get out of bed.
"One day I just couldn't get out of bed because I was too tired, and my parents were starting to get (upset) because I wasn't making it to work," the Coyotes defenseman said. "It really just came out of the blue, and I got sicker and sicker."
After two misdiagnoses it was determined he had type 1 diabetes.
"My condition hasn't changed the way I've played, and it's never stopped me from doing anything," Boynton said. "It's just one of those things that if you want to be here, you deal with."
And deal with it he did. He tested his blood sugar up to ten times a day and got back to work. And as he became a NHL regular, he also became a hero to many other young people faced with type 1 diabetes.
"I get a lot of letters from parents, mostly thanking me for continuing to play hockey," Boynton said. "I think that gives them hope more than anything. I think when your son or daughter is diagnosed when they're 2 or 3 years old, it can be a real scary thing. I've played for a few years now and have had no problems.
"If I can show kids and families that you can still do what you want as long as you take care of yourself properly, I think I owe that to people."
Boynton went on to play in 605 NHL games over 11 seasons. He was a very solid second pairing defenseman. He never developed into a top offensive threat, but he was a steady second pairing guy who offered a blend of stability and toughness.
Though the bulk of his career was spent with the Bruins, he also played with Phoenix, Florida, Anaheim, Philadelphia, and, for just 51 games, Chicago.
Yet it was with Chicago that he most resonates with. After all, he was a part of the 2010 Stanley Cup winning team.
"I love Boston. Some of my best friends are back there. But the team I played on in Chicago was a special team," Boynton said. "It was something I never experienced in my NHL career, with the closeness and the way the guys actually cared. Every guy on that team cared. Everyone had the same goal and wanted to win and wanted to be there. My fondest memories are with that team."
"The reason I played the game was to win the Stanley Cup," he said. "That was my one goal in hockey from the time I was 5 years old to get my name on (the Cup) and I was very fortunate to do it.
Serious concussion issues would end Boynton's career prematurely.
"Unfortunately, when I retired in 2011, I had some pretty bad concussion issues," Boynton said. "I'm just trying to work on getting better and it's a slow process. I'm starting to feel a little better. It's hard to work, hard to do anything on the farm where you're bouncing around on the tractor. Someday, hopefully, I'll get back to that point where I can help out in some way."
He retired in 2011, but he had no regrets.
"I consider myself very lucky to have realized my lifelong dream of making it to the NHL. I don't ever lose sight of that."