David Silye was devastated when the Penticton Vees’ season was cancelled.
The 21-year-old centre was in his final season with the club when the 2020-21 British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) season came to an abrupt end due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Up until that point, Silye — the team’s captain and MVP — had led the club through a season that was shaping up for a storybook ending.
Before the cancellation, the Vees had just made easy work of the West Kelowna Warriors, winning the first round of the BCHL playoffs in five games, and were poised to take a legitimate run at the franchise’s 13th Fred Page Cup.
Prior to their first-round playoff victory, the team had wrapped an impressive 44-12-1-1 regular season, good for the second best record in the BCHL.
Silye was crushed upon learning he wouldn’t have a chance to lead the Vees to their first championship since 2017.
The team had just finished an intense practice in preparation for their second round match-up against the Vernon Vipers when Head Coach, Fred Harbinson called the team back to the rink for a meeting to deliver the news that the remainder of the playoffs had been cancelled.
“It was obviously pretty devastating. It didn’t feel real at all,” Silye said of the moment Harbinson told the team.
“We felt like we really had a shot this year.”
Although the Vees’ captain was sidelined by injury for what would ultimately be the final game of the season — a 5-4 come-from-behind overtime victory against the Warriors — he still cites that win as his most memorable moment of his two seasons in Penticton.
“To be able to come back and win that game… and winning my first playoff series in four years, it felt really good,” said Silye. “Just being on the bench and being with the guys and just being able to have that moment with them was really special for me.”
“I get to remember that as how my junior career ended.”
Silye made great strides on and off the ice during his two seasons in Penticton. The young centre came to the Vees at the start of the 2017-18 season after posting 41 points in 54 games in his sophomore season with the Nanaimo Clippers.
In the next two seasons with Penticton Silye put up 60 and 62-point seasons, respectively.
Over those two years he grew from a relative unknown to the teams captain, MVP, and a fan favourite. Silye believes growing into a leadership role was the area he made the most progress in while in Penticton.
“Learning ways to contribute any way you can, without being on the score sheet. Finding ways to help motivate guys and just being a good teammate,” said Silye of his development with the Vees.
“Just doing your best and bringing it everyday. Hard work rubs off on everyone else, so (I would) just try to be my best everyday.”
Silye was quick to attribute his success in Penticton to the Vees’ organization. Furthermore, he believes success has come thanks to the dedication and positive attitudes at the top of their organization.
“I think it starts with the (Penticton Vees) owners. Graham and Sue Fraser are just great people. They’re always friendly, they’re always talking to me and they’re willing to spend the money to help players develop. They really care,” he said.
“That branches down into Freddy (Head Coach, Fred Harbinson), and then the assistant coaches and the people they bring in. They just bring in character people in and when you have that it’s a good recipe for success.”
Since the BCHL playoffs were cancelled on March 12, Silye has returned to Vancouver to live with family. He says he’s been keeping busy while self-isolating by taking online classes through a Minnesota-based school.
Next season, the Arnprior, Ont. native will look to bring that same hard-working attitude to Clarkson Univeristy in Postdam, NY as he embarks on his NCAA career.
While he admits NCAA hockey will be a challenge, he’s excited to see how his game matches up against older players in a bigger, faster league. However, the biggest challenge Silye anticipates next season at college is juggling hockey and school.
“The balance between school and social life might be hard at first,” he said.
Silye chose Clarkson University because it’s an hour and a half drive from his hometown in Ontario and the smaller school made him feel comfortable, seeing as he’s from a smaller town.
He was set to start summer school at Clarkson in July but says that’s now “up in the air” because of the coronavirus. New York has been the state hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic thus far.
No matter where his hockey career takes him, Penticton will always hold a special place in Silye’s heart.
“Everything about Penticton is just special. From the fans, to the arena, to the people in the organization, it’s just top-notch. It just makes coming to the rink so enjoyable,” said Silye.
However, if there’s one thing he regrets, it’s not being able to bring a championship to town.
“From the ups and downs of last year (2018-19) losing in the first-round, to this year, they (the fans) stuck with us. They never turned on us once and they make it so fun to play.
“They’re reason Penticton is the way it is. I can’t thank them enough for the support.” said Silye.
Asked if he had any parting words for the fans in Penticton, he simply responded, “just keep cheering loudly.”