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Ontario native, Charlottetown resident will be recognized next week and have his jersey number placed along the UPEI hockey greats in 2020
Some people wear the UPEI Panthers’ jersey and are rarely seen again. Others, like Dave Shellington, stay connected with the program forever.
The 54-year-old Burford, Ont., native stepped off a prop plane from Halifax on a foggy, rainy day in the summer of 1985 and his life changed dramatically. Inside the Charlottetown airport was men’s hockey head coach Vince Mulligan and upwards of 20 of Shellington’s new teammates.
“I knew right then I was in the right place,” he said Tuesday. “This is the place I wanted to be, and I never left.”
He played five seasons with the Panthers, earned his arts and education degrees and met his wife, Cathy. He played on two Atlantic Universities Athletics Association (AUAA) championship squads and is the team’s all-time points leader. Next week will have his jersey retired.
A banner with his No. 22 on it will be raised to the display at MacLauchlan Arena during alumni night in 2020. He will join Wilf MacDonald and Joel Ward as the only Panthers to receive the honour. Saint Dunstan's alumni who have received the distinction include Mike Kelly, George Trainor, Dennis Clough, Mike O'Brien and Billy Mulligan.
“I just played hockey since I was seven because I loved to play. I didn't play to win (individual) awards or any of that, I just played because I loved to play,” a humbled and honoured Shellington said. “When someone wants to recognize you for what you did as part of your career . . . it’s beyond words. It’s surreal to me.”
Shellington said he was fortunate to play with some great players and for two great coaches in Vince Mulligan and Billy MacMillan.
He and Cathy are staples in the top row of the south section of the stands supporting today’s players wearing the green and white at Panthers’ home games.
“We knocked on the door of winning a (national) championship and I know at some point in time they’re going to win one and I want to be around when that happens,” Shellington said.
He has maintained the love and passion for the program after his playing and coaching days and is nearing his 35th year of involvement with the squad.
“That’s kind of the definition of bleeding green,” Panthers’ coach Forbes MacPherson said.
MacPherson played two seasons with the Panthers with Shellington being an assistant coach during his rookie campaign. MacPherson said since he took the reins of the program a decade ago, Shellington has been an ardent and loyal supporter of the program.
MacPherson said when the university recognized Ward in 2016 and had him back a year ago to re-raise the banner during the hockey season, it was obvious the program had to make it a regular event.
“We have to get caught up in celebrating that history,” MacPherson said. “After Joel it became important to make that next step, so where do you go? Top of the list. All-time leading scorer.”
The Panthers made it to the nationals twice during Shellington’s career.
They were eliminated in the semifinal in 1987 by Saskatchewan and in 1988 by Western in a game they outshot the Mustangs about two-to-one but lost 3-1.
“That was the hardest loss. It still is,” Shellington said, the sting still evident today. “That one’s never left.”
While the championship eluded the powerhouse squads, the impact Shellington and his teammates had on the program remains indisputable. And the impact goes deeper than goals, assists and wins because of the people the players have become.
“The thing that beyond impresses me about Dave is the way he carries himself – it’s so gentlemanlike, it’s so professional (and) he’s always modest,” MacPherson said.
“I’ve had pride in that jersey right from Day 1,” Shellington said.
“The hardest thing, I think, I ever did was take it off the last time,” he added, recalling sitting in the rink in Moncton after losing the final in his fifth season. “I probably sat in there for a half an hour because I didn't want to take it off and, really, I haven’t taken it off.”
Need to know
Who – A former UPEI Panthers’ men hockey team player and assistant coach.
Personal – Shellington is married to Cathy and they live in Charlottetown. He is a 54-year-old Burford, Ont., native, located about 15 kilometres west of Brantford. He teaches Grade 7 math and some language arts courses at Birchwood Intermediate School after previously teaching at Stonepark intermediate.
What’s up? Shellington will be honoured at next week’s Panthers’ fundraiser, the Molson Coors Hot Stove Lounge. His jersey will be retired and a banner in his honour will be raised to the rafters at MacLauchlan Arena during alumni night in 2020. The Hot Stove Lounge will take place Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the W.A. Murphy Student Centre. The night, organized by the Friends of Panther Hockey, will feature Vegas Golden Knights coaches Gerard Gallant and Mike Kelly plus Dallas Stars amateur scout Shane Turner. Tables are sold-out but individual tickets are available for $50. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
GP G A Pts.
N/A 96 136 232
First season – Shellington joined a line with Ronnie Carragher and Albert Roche. “I learned two things quick,” Shellington said. “One, with Ronnie, you go to the net with the stick down and be ready. And with Albert, when he’s shooting, go to the net because goalies aren’t going to hang on to his shot.”
Interesting note – Carragher was the principal at Birchwood during the 2017-18 academic year.
What separated UPEI – “It wasn't just a UPEI team or a Charlottetown team, it was a P.E.I. team and I just felt that from Day 1,” Shellington said.
Did you know? Shellington and Joel Ward both wore No. 22.
A look at the UPEI Panthers’ all-time scoring leaders.
Player Seasons GP G A Pts.
Dave Shellington 1985-90 N/A 96 136 232
Randy Muttart 1984-88 N/A 97 119 216
Greg Gravel 1983-87 N/A 89 124 213
John Nelson 1991-96 110 77 127 204
Ron Carragher 1982-86 N/A 57 134 191
Source – Atlantic University Sport website
AUS rankings – Shellington ranks fourth all-time in conference scoring behind Mount Allison’s Kevin Foran (267), Moncton’s Francois Bessette (248) and Mount Allison’s Ross Yates (239).