How many of us can say that we get a second chance at something that we love? Probably not many because second chances do not come around every day, but when they do, you have to take advantage of them. You have to be ready.
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native Dan DaSilva got a second chance to return to the AHL with a team he had a lot of success with. During the 2008-2009 season, DaSilva split time between the AHL with the Worcester Sharks and the ECHL. Then, for the next two seasons, he was with Worcester full time. Those have been the most successful seasons of his professional career and this season, he’s back with his old team.
“I always kind of had a special place in my heart for Worcester because I had a couple good years here. I always liked my time here. I met a lot of good people, including players, coaches, and trainers,” DaSilva remembered. “It’s kind of funny that the coaches are the same but only a couple guys I used to play with are still here. Some stuff has changed and some is the same but it’s good to be back.”
He started the season in the ECHL with the Ontario Reign. When he found out that Worcester wanted to bring him back on a professional tryout contract, he was not sure that it would be easy to go back. This was a team that had let him go after the 2010-2011 season and that was something he was not sure he could forget. But then he remembered what a great opportunity this was.
“At first I wasn’t sure I could come back because I thought that they let me go but then I thought, maybe that’s a good thing,” he said. “They know who I am and they know what to expect of me. Not many people get a second chance in hockey or in life. You want to make the most of that.”
Coaches and players alike are certainly familiar with him in Worcester. When he was around the last time, he was part of a line dubbed “The Crazed Rats” with forwards John McCarthy and Andrew Desjardins, both of whom are in the NHL with San Jose at the moment. In their Worcester Sharks days, they were a third line known for their energy and unusual awareness of the ice. During that season, they combined for an impressive 55 goals.
“We clicked right off the bat. There was one preseason game I remember in Springfield that we were all minus-3 or something like that. After that, we went on to have a really successful season,” he remembered. “I feel like we all worked hard and meshed together well. It didn’t matter who was doing the passing or scoring or forecheck, we all supported each other. That’s the biggest key to success, getting comfortable with your linemates and getting to play together all year long. You get used to where people are going to be.”
Now, he has new linemates with his old Sharks linemates being in the NHL. But he seems to be adjusting. He went his first nine games with his former team without a goal. Over the past eight games, he has three goals and really seems to be finding his stride. His role is a lot different from the first time around, though.
“With Desjardins and McCarthy we were kind of considered the third line even though we did good with producing. Now, I’m kind of playing more of a first line role. I’m expected to score more than when I was here before,” he said. “It hasn’t been too hard of an adjustment. Hockey guys are all kind of the same. We’re all kind of bred the same way.”
Prior to rejoining the Worcester Sharks for this second chance, DaSilva had gone back to the Ontario Reign in the ECHL for his second season. He seemed to be off to a strong season, registering 7 goals and 19 assists during the first 14 games. That was probably what got him the notice in the AHL. Sharks fans have the coaching staff with the Reign to thank for having this fan favorite back at all, though.
“The biggest reason I went back to the Reign is the coaching staff. They did a lot for my career. I don’t know if I would honestly still be playing hockey if it weren’t for those guys. It’s tough to keep playing and being away from family at times,” he said. “The guys in Ontario persuaded me to come there and I’m glad I did. They pushed us every single day to work hard. They’re supportive and helped me better myself as a player. I credit being back in the AHL to them because they really helped me. They pushed me every day.”
Although some players and fans might not understand the importance of playing in the ECHL, DaSilva is not one of them. He credits them, at least partially, with his second chance in Worcester. For him, it’s more than that, though. He took a shot and went overseas to play in the KHL. But for someone looking to get even just that one game of NHL experience, he understands it’s important to hold off going overseas.
“I went overseas the year after I left Worcester the first time. I feel like if you’re interested in making the NHL, I don’t think the ECHL is a bad place to be. You play there and work on things. As long as you go in with the right attitude, it’s not a bad thing at all,” he said. “I think some of the younger guys don’t realize that. They think it’s a bad thing to get sent down to the ECHL. I thought the same thing when I was younger. But you realize that you always need to be working on your game because if you’re not, somebody else is. They’re going to pass you and take the spot that could have been yours.”
Not only does DaSilva understand the importance of hard work, he knows that the best way to get better is to get out there and work on things. You cannot do that just by going through team practices. Sometimes there is a part of your game that just needs that extra bit of work beyond just practices. If you’re not getting into games in the AHL, there is no harm in getting to play in the ECHL for actual game experience.
“How much better can you get just in practice? If you’re not playing in the games, that’s not developing. The games are where you develop. In practice, you can work your hardest but it’s that game experience that matters most,” he said. “Practice isn’t going to get you to the next level. If you’re not playing in games, nobody can notice you. If you get sent down to the ECHL, you can work on whatever you need to work on and that builds your game. You’re that much better.”
This is something that DaSilva believes and knows all too well, having spent time in the ECHL and AHL over the course of his professional career. He wants what every professional hockey player in the minor league wants: that shot at even just one NHL game. He has a dream and it’s not one that he’s ready to let go.
“I’ve definitely put my time in for both leagues and I’m still going because I still want to make it. I’m still chasing the dream,” he said. “I almost shut it down but here I am, back in Worcester and it’s a good second opportunity. I don’t want to let it pass by.”
“I’m hoping for the best. I feel like I put myself in a good position coming back to Worcester. I still want to chase the NHL dream and I won’t be happy without that,” he said. “I’m hoping that if I play well, next year I can get an NHL deal. Then I could get that NHL game like I’ve been dreaming. That’s what I’ve been striving for during the last 9 or so years of my professional hockey career. That would be something special.”
So far, DaSilva seems to be in good position. He knows that despite coming in on a PTO, he will be in Worcester for the rest of the season. He seems more important than ever, given that the team has suffered a number of call-ups and injuries lately. In their recent games, they have only had just enough healthy players to put enough guys out on the ice.
Despite crediting the Reign coaching staff for keeping him in hockey, he also has the type of personality that he does not want to give up. He wants to keep pushing himself to be better and he wants to keep chasing the NHL dream. He still hopes that one day fans will see a reunion of him with Desjardins and McCarthy.
“I’m definitely not willing to give up. I’m still kicking for a reason. The give up thought has crossed by mind, it just doesn’t sit well with me. It’s just in my blood to keep on trying,” he said.
Over his seasons as a professional hockey player, DaSilva has learned a lot about himself. He knows that there are things that he needs to work on still but also that over the years he’s continued to improve his game. He’s in his ninth season of professional hockey and has taken a lot of lessons learned with him over the years. The most noticeable would have to be his incredible work ethic.
“I think my strengths are that I have the ability to read the ice and see the play developing. I think that lets me make smart plays. I think I’m a good passer. I’ve been trying to improve my skating, which used to be kind of slow,” DaSilva said. “I was kind of a liability earlier in my career because I wasn’t strong enough in my defensive zone but I’ve been working on that over the years.”
“The biggest thing I can’t stress enough is don’t get too comfortable, even if it’s something you notice during a game. You might see you missed a chance in a game and have to think that it’s something you’re going to work on in practice,” he said. “I always try to find something from the last game or two I’ve played that I can work on before the next game. Then, if I’m in that situation again, I’ll be able to improve on it.”
Throughout his career, DaSilva has always heard people tell him that he did not have what it takes. After juniors, he went undrafted. That was not something that he ever let get to him, though. He just took that as a cue to work harder and make people notice him. He has earned every chance he has ever gotten. It has been his hard work and dedication that have impressed people along the way and made them want to give him a chance.
“I’ve had naysayers my whole life and it was always the skating thing when I was younger. Every time I’ve moved from one level to the next, I’ve heard that I wouldn’t be able to make it past that level,” he remembered. “They thought I was too slow. Then I would get there and I would surprise people. I worked on my game and got better and was able to excel in juniors. BREAK “The same went for being undrafted. I went to Colorado camp as an undrafted free agent and just went on a tryout. I was able to get a contract out of that. Everywhere I’ve gone it’s been on a tryout. I’ve never just been given anything,” he said. “Even when I went to the KHL three years ago, it was a tryout. I’ve had to go everywhere and earn my spot. I seem to impress people when I go new places and I’m able to get a shot. I don’t know why that is but I don’t know that I’d want it any other way. I’ve been able to work for everything I’ve gotten and nothing has been given to me.”
With an attitude and work ethic like that, it is easy to see why DaSilva impresses wherever he goes. It would definitely be great to see him reunited with his old Worcester Sharks linemates. Even if he does not get that dream, he deserves to have his shot at an NHL game. He is dedicated and hard working, a fact that people do not seem to miss when they give him a chance.
DaSilva wants to have to work for his chances. All he needs is just one NHL team to give him a shot and he can do the rest. Every league that he’s played for professionally so far, he has come in on a tryout and earned a spot to stay. It will certainly be interesting to see what the rest of this season and the off-season bring for this fan favorite.