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From Miami to Florida: two RedHawks’ paths to Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning

<p>Blake Coleman and Dan Boyle are two of six former RedHawks to win a Stanley Cup. Both did it with the Tampa Bay Lightning.</p>

Blake Coleman and Dan Boyle are two of six former RedHawks to win a Stanley Cup. Both did it with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Despite these last few years, which can only be described as rocky, Miami University’s men’s hockey team has a long and rich history of turning out amazing players.

In the history of Miami’s hockey program, six former RedHawks have gone on to win Stanley Cups. They include Dan Boyle in 2004, Kevyn Adams in 2006, Alec Martinez in 2012 and 2014, Jeff Zatkoff in 2016, Mitch Korn (who coached, rather than played, at Miami) in 2018 and Blake Coleman in 2020 and 2021.

Of these six Cup winners, allow your attention to be drawn to the first and sixth: Dan Boyle (2004) and Blake Coleman (2020/2021). Despite the years between their graduations and their Stanley Cups, Miami’s least and most recent Stanley Cup winners have something in common other than the fact that they’ve both been talented and fortunate enough to hoist hockey’s most prestigious trophy. 

Both Boyle and Coleman won all of their Stanley Cups (three, combined) with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Beyond that, these are the only three Stanley Cups ever won by the Lightning in their 32 years of franchise history.

The team has never won a Stanley Cup without a Miami RedHawk alumnus playing for it.

“It is a team sport, but I like to think I was a pretty important part of winning that Cup,” Boyle said of his experience winning the Cup with the Lightning in 2004. “I think the reason why we won is that we were a tight-knit group off the ice. You can be a good player, but you have to be a good person, too.”

The Lightning appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015 and 2022, where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks and the Colorado Avalanche, respectively. Neither the 2015 team nor the 2022 team had a RedHawk alum on the roster.

In fact, Boyle and Coleman are the only two RedHawks to have ever played with the Lightning.

This means that the RedHawks and the Lightning have a stellar record when paired together — when it comes to Stanley Cups, at least. The only other team with such a record is the Carolina Hurricanes (with Kevyn Adams, the only RedHawk alum to have ever played on that team). 

What makes the connection between the RedHawks and the Lightning so infallible (up to this point, at least)? Goggin Ice Arena, the RedHawks’ home base, and Amalie Arena, where the Lightning play, are a 959-mile drive apart — so how do two separate Miami alumni end up winning Stanley Cups with the same team?

Part of this connection is simply the players themselves. 

Boyle, for instance, was always known as the underdog — or, quite literally, the smaller one. A man standing at 5-foot-11 may not be seen as short off the ice, but in hockey, size is sometimes seen as everything — a stereotype that Boyle worked tirelessly to shatter both during his time at Miami (1994-1998) and after. 

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“I’d hoped [to go pro], but it was never something that I truly thought about or could see myself doing,” Boyle said. “I was told I was going to be too small to make it, so I wasn’t overly anxious on the idea that I was going to get drafted.”

Sure enough, Boyle went undrafted after his graduation from Miami.

On the other hand, Coleman’s journey to the Cup began with a draft before he even became a RedHawk. Drafted into the New Jersey Devils as a prospect in the 2011 draft — much like current RedHawks Logan Neaton and Red Savage are prospects for the Winnipeg Jets and the Detroit Red Wings, respectively — Coleman played for Miami from 2011 to 2015

Coleman’s coach during his time at Miami, former RedHawk coach Enrico Blasi, is still one of his biggest fans. 

“[Coleman was] very competitive, skilled, [a] very good skater and hardnosed to play against,” Blasi wrote in an email to The Miami Student. “Blake always had a very competitive spirit and wanted to do well. [The] value to play for something bigger than yourself allowed guys like Blake [to] move on to the NHL being prepared not only physically but emotionally and intellectually.”

Coleman also had the opportunity to play in the new Goggin Ice Center, which was built in 2006 — an experience that Boyle, playing in the old Goggin Ice Arena, never got. But there were other similarities and differences between the two. Despite both standing at 5-foot-11, Coleman was drafted — and Boyle wasn’t.

But that didn’t stop Boyle from pursuing his dream. After playing three seasons with the Florida Panthers organization — two in the American Hockey League and one in the NHL — the defenseman was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he eventually won the Cup just one season later, his second with the Bolts. 

“[The Lightning] was the last-place team in the League when I got there,” Boyle said, “but we won the Cup in two years. I’m proud of the turnaround. We all accomplished something that you don’t see in professional sports very often.”

This turnaround was, in part, thanks to Boyle. Hockey is a team sport, of course, but Boyle led the Lightning’s defensemen in points with 39 (nine goals and 30 assists) in the 2004 season

Coleman was also integral to the Lightning’s successes in 2020 and 2021. In his first season with the Lightning, Coleman marked only one assist — but he was also traded to the team in February from New Jersey, giving him almost no time to play before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the NHL in March. By 2021, he had skyrocketed up the rankings to rank eighth out of the entire team, with 14 goals and 17 assists for a total of 31 points. 

“[Coleman] was a big part in winning the cups,” Blasi wrote. “Pretty special to have been a small part of his development. [I] always smile when I watch him because he plays the same way.  He knows his role and plays it very well. He is tough around the net and will do anything to win.”

Coleman’s past with the RedHawks may still be evident in his playing style today, but Boyle’s past with the Miami RedHawks wasn’t necessarily on his mind when the Lightning ousted the Calgary Flames to take home the Cup in 2004. 

“I didn’t know if I was going to play 10 games, 100 games, let alone over 1,000,” Boyle said, “so I was always present wherever I was.”

Still, his time as a RedHawk was integral in helping him in his professional career.

“One of the advantages to playing college hockey versus junior hockey is that there’s not as much wear and tear on your body,” Boyle said. “After 18 years, I think that playing less probably helped me. And after not being drafted, it created this huge chip on my shoulder that I still carry with me to this day about being the underdog and fighting through adversity. That helped me get through everything and anything from that moment on.”

That fight, that fire, is something shared by both Boyle and Coleman — more than any shared team or playing experience. If there exists a connection between the RedHawks and the Lightning, it is that desire to succeed and push oneself beyond their limits. That’s something shared by teams throughout collegiate and professional hockey, but in the cases of Dan Boyle and Blake Coleman, both former RedHawks and Lightning, it is more visible than ever.