BRAINTREE — It’s been a little over six months since Charlie Coyle first donned a black and gold sweater — fulfilling a childhood dream for the Weymouth native and BU product.
But even with 45 total games (and one Stanley Cup Final run) under his belt as a member of the Boston Bruins, Coyle did note Thursday night that the prospect of going to work just 15 miles away from home is a reality that still is hard to comprehend.
But he's not complaining.
"I don’t know if it’s fully sunk in. I really don’t know. It’s been crazy," Coyle said. "I mean, this is my home, so it just — I don’t know. It’s weird in a way. It’s weird, but I love it. My family loves it. They get to come and watch me play more times than obviously in the past in Minnesota. That’s really special, my grandmothers, extended family, it’s really cool to just work — at home. Just close to them. Just to see them more often? It’s awesome.”
Coyle's relatives are far from the only ones elated that the forward is back in the Bay State. A South-Shore stalwart from his days of youth hockey to the years spent at both Weymouth High School and Thayer Academy, Coyle often draws a crowd whenever he's spotted around town — and especially around a local rink.
On Thursday night, the total hovered somewhere between 200-300 when it came to the crowd huddled around Coyle at the Thayer Sports Center in Braintree — with kids of all ages cramming into the corner of the rink for a chance at a selfie and autograph with the local kid turned NHLer. And for the next 45 minutes, Coyle reciprocated the warm reception — stopping to shake hands, snap photos and sign everything from a puck to a crumpled can of iced tea. By the time he finally went back to the locker room, the rink was just about empty, but the parking lot was teeming with children — many of whom left happy with signed No. 13 sweaters and much more.
Charlie Coyle had a couple hundred kids looking for autographs, selfies, etc. after tonight’s Hold The Line Foundation charity game.
45 minutes later, he finally went to the locker room, after signing everything from a puck to a can of iced tea. pic.twitter.com/qg3fhHXES2
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) August 23, 2019
"He’s always had a heart of gold," Nik Tasiopoulos said of Coyle. "He's always willing to do what’s best."
Coyle's extended meet-and-greet was a fitting end to a night in which Coyle and a slew of other local NHL talent teamed up various other facets of the community to benefit local law enforcement – both in the South Shore and across the Commonwealth.
Thursday marked the second annual Hold The Line Foundation charity game — a hockey exhibition featuring both NHL talent and local police officers taking to the ice in support of law enforcement in Massachusetts.
The foundation was started back in August 2018 in order to raise money for the families of both Weymouth PD Sgt. Michael Chesna and Weymouth native Vera Adams — who were tragically murdered on July 15, 2018. The first Hold The Line game raised money for a youth police academy in honor of Sgt. Chesna, with the proceeds also allowing for the donation of summer reading books to the Weymouth Public Schools in honor of Adams.
Tasiopoulos, the president of the Hold The Line Foundation, said that the proceeds of this year's event will go toward giving back to first responders in the local community and their families.
"The big thing is, it’s really a foundation — we pivoted as we started going and it grew, making it a foundation where we have these officers' backs," Tasiopoulos said. "When we’re in trouble, we call them. Now, these guys were all quick to rally and that’s why I think there’s so many that want to be involved. If they go and something, god forbid, happens to them, we’re here and we have a foundation ready for their family and their community if something ever happened.”
Coyle, a teammate of Tasiopoulos at Thayer, was involved in the first Hold The Line game alongside other local products like Ryan Donato and Chris Wagner.
This year, however, the number of pro players spiked — with Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Adam Gaudette, Zach Sanford, Kevin Rooney Mallory Souliotis, Lauren Kelly and more joining the event.
"It’s cool to see all these people come out to support the police and for us, to show our support and our gratitude to them for what they do," Arizona Coyotes forward and Scituate native Conor Garland said. "It’s nice to see how talented some of those guys are, too. A lot of those guys play at a high level.”