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   Heritage Junior Hockey League:
Sylvester stays busy during lockdown
- Submitted by

Matt Sylvester is one of the lucky ones.

With a full course load at the U of A, the Stettler product has had plenty of schoolwork to keep him occupied during these last two months of isolation.

"I had school so it hasn't affected my life too much," Sylvester said. "I've been managing just fine."

Probably too busy to binge-watch Tiger King, then? Not exactly.

"I found some time for Tiger King," Sylvester admits. "It's entertaining and I definitely jumped on that bandwagon and wasted a few hours on that circus of a show.

"I wouldn't call it useful time but it was entertaining."

Sylvester, who recently graduated from the HJHL, said while he wishes his Stettler Lightning were still playing, at least he doesn't have to wonder 'what if'.

"I guess I was fortunate that we were out of the playoffs when this thing shut down the league.

"My season and my junior hockey career ended naturally. I know some guys who were on a playoff run and things ended abruptly and that would have been really unfortunate."

The 5-foot-11, 165-pounder put up 21 goals and 36 points in 28 games in 2019-20. He and teammate The Mulgrove were among a number of HJHL players to earn a Friends of Alberta Junior Hockey Society scholarship. 

That'll be put to good use as Sylvester just finished his third year in the civil engineering program. He spent the first half of the season doing a work term at an engineering company in Red Deer.

"That made it easier because Red Deer is a lot closer to Stettler than Edmonton," he said. "So I was fully committed to the team from September to January 1st.

"After that, I went back to school. I was still committed but obviously I wasn't making practice on a Tuesday night."

He'll head back to work in Red Deer this summer.

The 21-year-old piled up 55 goals and 11 points in 75 career games over three HJHL seasons.

And he got to do it with his hometown team.

"I grew up in Stettler, that's where I played all my minor hockey," he said. "We won the bantam A and midget A provincials, and we hosted the tournament both years.

"I grew up going to Lightning games and watching them. So it was an easy transition to join the Lightning and it allowed me to still play competitive hockey while I was working and going to school.

"Most of the players on the team are like myself. They grew up in Stettler and the community knows them. If I was to look up in the stands, I'd probably recognize 75 per cent of them.

"It's not a huge fan base but it's not a huge town. For our size, we do really well."

As for what his hockey future holds, it's up in the air. One thing is for sure though, he's not hanging up the blades any time soon.

"I'll definitely play hockey, but whether it will be a competitive league or not, I don't know," Sylvester said.

"I played intramural hockey at the U of A just for practice during the week, so I'll continue to do that.

"If it's competitive hockey, it would be senior hockey, and I could see myself doing that but it's still to be decided."

There's a bigger decision that has been made.

Sylvester will mary his fiance, Olivia, also a Stettler product, who just finished up her degree in education on Aug. 22.

Coronavirus or no coronairus, the wedding bells will ring.

It just might mean few guests.


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