Alex Silvia, 17, would have been spending his senior year at Kenmore East High School and playing for the Buffalo Regals 18U Selects AAA of the Midwest Elite Hockey League if he hadn't been given the opportunity to go on to bigger and better things.
Instead, Alex is attending Trinity-Pawling, a boarding school in Upstate New York where he is retaking his junior year of high school and playing hockey in the New England Founders League, one of the oldest leagues in high school hockey.
For the past couple of years, Alex was searching for schools where he could elevate his game and increase his chances of playing college hockey. And if he ever received a chance to play in the National Hockey League from all of this, he wouldn't be too disappointed.
Alex was hooked on Trinity-Pawling School after he went for a visit last spring.
"I came up for a visit and just loved it," Alex said. "I chose it because it's kind of a home away from home. I feel comfortable around here. The all-guys experience is kind of something different, but it's not as bad as you would expect. It's definitely the place you want to be if you want to play college hockey."
Trinity-Pawling borders Connecticut, and the majority of the teams Alex and his teammates face off against are from the Connecticut area. The farthest his team travels to play is Deerfield, Mass., which is about two hours from Trinity-Pawling.
"It's nothing compared to what I had to do last year," Alex said.
When he played for the Regals, Alex usually had to miss most Thursdays and Fridays of school to travel around the country for hockey. Missing so much school for hockey is why Alex is repeating his junior year.
"It's pretty weird -- I see all my friends in their senior year and everything and I miss that a little bit," Alex said. "But because I had to miss so much school last year -- I kind of had to do it so it would help me for college and help me get into a better school. It's really not that bad because the kids here are great and the teachers here are great. It's really a family environment so it's something I could do for two years."
Alex is taking physics, pre-calculus, AP English and AP European history at his new school and he usually has two to three hours of homework each night.
"The classes are a lot harder, but the good thing is that because we only have about 250 kids at this school, it's about probably seven to eight kids in class," he said. "So it's harder, yeah, but you're able to go to your teacher's house and get extra help. It's really a tight-knit kind of community thing. It makes it a lot easier."
Alex says he has never felt like his decision was a sacrifice.
"I'm already having better opportunities here than I did when I went to [Kenmore] East and played for the Regals," Alex said. "It made me a better person already, and the hockey opportunities are ... really good right now. It wasn't really a sacrifice, it was an opportunity. I feel really privileged.
"It's really tough obviously seeing everyone in their senior year and missing all that stuff. I want to play college hockey and this is just one of the things I have to do," he added. "I think it's worth being here, meeting all these new people, doing all these new things. It's something that a lot of people don't really have the opportunity to do."
However, making the decision was difficult. Alex turned to his family for help.
"It was hard at first to realize I would be away from my friends and miss my senior year at [Kenmore] East," he said. "I started talking to a little bit of my family and it just made more and more sense for the path I'm trying to take to help me get to college and hockey."
The transition from public school to private as well as from living at home to dorming were things Alex has had to get used to.
"I got lucky because I am in a triple dorm with two roommates, one that went to [Williamsville North -- Vinny Muto] and one who went to Niagara Falls [Mark Maraschiello]. I grew up playing with them," Alex said. "It was kind of easy to adjust. It was a lot different. It's a lot of freedom, but it's a lot of responsibility, too."
Along with adjusting to no longer enjoying the comforts of home, Alex had to adjust to the new workload coupled with his newfound freedom.
"It was tough to push myself to get work done," he said. "It's definitely a maturing process where I have to learn to kind of live on my own and do all these things on my own. My parents aren't really there to push me anymore. I had to work on that, to take responsibility for myself to get my stuff done -- kind of being on your own and living in a dorm, getting to bed on time. There's nobody telling you to turn the lights off or anything like that. It's definitely helped me get ready and do things on my own a little bit."
As for his hockey team, the driving force behind his decision to give up the life he knew to pursue his dreams: He loves it.
"I love the guys. We have guys from all over the place. It's basically a family. We came together. There's some local kids. There's a kid from Hungary, a kid from Sweden, a bunch of Toronto kids, a Quebec kid, people from all over the place," Alex said. "It's really cool to get together and play hockey with kids from all over the world and share that."
Playing for Trinity-Pawling has also helped Alex improve his game.
"It's helped me toward college hockey; like the speed and the pace of the game," he said.
It's also changed his outlook on life: "It broadened my horizons and helped me see it's not all about hockey but about the education, too."