As is the case with most professional hockey players, Darren Boyko stick-handled down some very interesting paths during his career on the ice. It all began at the age of six, when Boyko's father Larry first built a large skating rink in the family's back yard. To this day, Boyko credits his father's devotion to making those rinks as the main ingredient which allowed him to begin developing his skills at such a young age and thus gain so much future success as a hockey player.
From the time he began playing organized hockey with St. Boniface, Boyko was a natural scoring star. He played Triple A hockey from the age of seven to 15, and led his team in total points each season. One particularly memorable season for Boyko was taking part in the famous Quebec Pee-Wee hockey tournament, although the final result was somewhat bittersweet. His team lost their opener in an upset, which put them on the consolation side, where they went on to win the rest of their games, coasting to the Consolation championship. The Peterborough, Ontario club which topped them in the opener, lost in the championship finals to another Winnipeg team, led by future NHL star Brett Hull. The Saints and Boyko had consistently beaten Hull's team in each of the league games back in Winnipeg, and felt they could have done so again on a national stage, but the opportunity was lost.
By the age of 16, Boyko was playing Tier Two Junior A with the Boniface Saints and led the league in scoring, with 48 goals and 116 points in just 48 games. The following year, he made the move to major junior hockey, joining the Winnipeg Warriors of the Western Hockey League. It was a difficult decision for Boyko, who also recognized the value of an education. Playing major junior hockey would make him ineligible for any U.S. hockey scholarship, but it was certainly a more direct route for those with NHL aspirations. Despite a tremendous WHL rookie season, where he scored 35 goals and 72 points in 65 games, Boyko was not selected in the NHL draft, something which still puzzles him to a certain degree even to this day. From there, he knew his route to the NHL would be made much more difficult, and with U.S. college hockey no longer an option, decided to return to the Warriors for another season. Undeterred, Boyko suited up for the Warriors in 1982-83 and led the team in scoring with 49 goals and 130 points in 72 games, but once again was left unclaimed in the NHL Entry Draft.
At the age of 19, Boyko could have returned for another year of eligibility with the Warriors, but realized it would not accomplish much in terms of advancing his career, having twice been overlooked in the NHL draft. Still keenly interested in obtaining an education, Boyko enrolled at the University of Toronto where he played two years with the Varsity Blues. It was while playing for the Blues that Boyko was coached by two well-known bench bosses, Mike Keenan in his first year and Tom Watt in his second, where Boyko also had the honour of serving as team captain. Once again Boyko was near the top of the offensive scoring categories, collecting 84 points in both seasons with the team.
In 1985-86, the opportunity to play professional hockey in Finland came about. That same year Boyko also suited up for four games with the Canadian National Team at the Izvestia Cup tournament, joining the likes of Cliff Ronning, Mike Millar, Trent Yawney and Tony Hrkac on squad coached by Dave King. In the summer of 1985, Boyko received a phone call from former coach Keenan, who had just guided the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals in his rookie NHL season, where they lost to the Edmonton Oilers. Keenan inquired whether Boyko would be interested in signing a two-way contract and try out with the Flyers that fall. As tempting as it was, Boyko felt cracking the Flyers' lineup would be doubtful at best and he had no desire to spend an entire season in the American Hockey League, especially with the much more lucrative and otherwise desirable offer to play in Finland on the table.
During his rookie season in Helsinki, Boyko played in 36 games, scoring 18 goals and 44 points to finish among the team leaders. He played another three years in Helsinki, when in October of 1988, he had the opportunity to suit up for what was to be his one and only NHL game, skating for the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets played host to the Boston Bruins that night, coming up on the short end of a 5-2 score. Boyko also played in eight exhibition games with the Jets, but other than that, his entire professional career was spent in Europe.
Boyko spent a total of eleven years with the same team in Helsinki, making him one of the longest-serving foreign players in the league. He was once the all-time leader in points-scored by a foreign-born player, and remains second on the list to this day. During his entire career in Helsinki, Boyko was the model of offensive consistency, always scoring at least 30 points each season. During the latter stages of his career with the team, he was asked to serve as the team's captain. However, he felt uneasy about assuming that role, and preferred the title go to someone with a stronger command of the Finnish language, so necessary when dealing with referees. Boyko did accept the role as the team's assistant captain during his final two years in Helsinki. He also centered a line with future NHLers Sami Kapanen and Ville Peltonen on the wings, to form one of the strongest offensive units in the Finnish League. Despite their scoring prowess, Helsinki was never able to win a championship during Boyko's tenure, finishing runner-up twice and third on three occasions.
Two of Boyko's fondest memories of Finland came in 1994, when his Helsinki team played in the 1994 NHL International Challenge, where a touring NHL club played against the Finnish clubs in a pre-season tournament. As it happens, the NHL team that year was the Winnipeg Jets, with whom Boyko played his one NHL game. Despite putting up a strong effort, Helsinki came out on the losing end of a 5-2 score. The other game was against the Canadian National Team in the Spengler Cup. Boyko had a highly successful career in Finland, but he notes that it almost came to an end after just a couple of years. In the late 1980s, with the fall of communism in the former Soviet Union, Russian star Igor Larionov was the property of the Helsinki club and was scheduled to join the team. Boyko assumed that would likely spell the end of his tenure in Helsinki, with the club certain to select Larionov as its top-line center. However, as fate would have it, Larionov managed to gain a release from his contractual obligations and was permitted to sign with the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, thus leaving Boyko as the team's top center for many more years.
In 1996-97, Boyko recognized his playing days were coming to an end. The opportunity to play a season in Germany came about, and although he was not overly interested in moving at first, he says the experience of playing there was tremendous. In 32 games with the Berlin Capitals he scored 22 points and played alongside the likes of former NHLers Tony Tanti and John Chabot.
Meanwhile off the ice, Boyko was setting himself up for life after hockey in the business world, and completed his MBA program in 1995, graduating from the Helsinki International School of Economics.
Since his retirement from hockey in 1997, Boyko has worked with the International Ice Hockey Federation as an International Consultant in the Public Relations and Marketing Department, in conjunction with the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Boyko can usually still be found lacing up the blades and demonstrating some of his hockey prowess on a Friday afternoon in a weekly pickup game with friends and fellow workers from the Hockey Hall of Fame.