He was a natural. Ask those in the broadcasting business.
He wasn’t even a full-timer, but he knew his way around a mike. The Voice was only one of Dave Piland’s many gifts, but the one for which he was best known. His most important gifts, however, were those that made him a devoted husband, loving father and caring human being.
Piland, of Snohomish, best known as the public-address announcer for the Everett Silvertips, died Friday of complications from brain cancer. He was 43.
Snohomish County sports fans clearly remember Piland’s deep baritone intonations. Before the Silvertips hired him in their inaugural year, “Super Dave” Piland was half of a quick-witted, irreverent duo, along with Gary “Hollywood” Cressey, who entertained race fans at Evergreen Speedway.
And entertain them they did.
Piland and Cressey routinely staged mock interviews with drivers during races. Once, Cressey “interviewed” Piland, who jacked up his powerful, booming voice several octaves to play the role of a female driver. Verbal mayhem, of course, prevailed.
Later that night, Cressey ran into a spectator who said he was acquainted with the “woman” Cressey interviewed.
“Boy,” Cressey quoted the man. “That gal sure sounds like her brother.”
It was that kind of atmosphere at Evergreen, to spectators and broadcasting partners alike.
“I love the guy,” Cressey said. “He’s one of the nicest young men I’ve ever worked with. Announcing with him was the most fun I’ve ever had. It’s funny. We both thought of doing something else, but I kept staying because of him and he kept staying because of me. We probably spent five more years together there that we really had to.”
Those in the business knew better than to interfere with Piland’s and Cressey’s antics. They were best as a team, left to wield their magic as they felt it.
“The thing that impressed me most about Dave and Gary was, if there were 5,000 people in the grandstands, Dave and Gary only entertained themselves,” said Steve Mortland, veteran broadcaster and radio host for the NorthSound Racing show on KRKO-AM. “I would be walking in the pits and just listen to those two go at it. They would make the funniest comments about people and many of their comments would go right over the heads of the people listening. I’d be almost doubled up in laughter, and no one had a clue what I was busted up about.”
Cressey and Mortland said Piland took to the art of broadcast immediately. He knew description, knew interviews and knew how to use his voice to denote excitement, disappointment and scorn.
He was a natural, in other words.
“He absolutely blew me away with his talent,” Mortland said. “I thought, ‘That’s how it should be done!’ … If you ask any announcer, he’ll tell you he’s stolen lines from everybody he’s ever worked with. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t stolen most of the style I have from Dave. He was so smooth he didn’t need to prepare. He could pull a one-liner out of his (hat). His banter with ‘Hollywood’ is legendary.”
So skilled was Piland that the Silvertips hired him without need of a tryout. From 2003 on, Piland was the voice of the Silvertips at the Everett Events Center, with his famous phrase, “Let’s play hockey!”
“He always showed up early and prepared meticulously for each game, making sure he had pronunciations down pat,” said Aaron Wilson, who worked with Piland on game nights as the Silvertips’ senior account executive. “Considering the number of spots we asked Dave to announce, it’s a wonder his voice didn’t go out. But he was always ready to go, no matter what the game called for.”
Family friend Lori Moak-Kean remembered Piland’s huge heart.
“He donated many hundreds of pounds of dog food to a food bank for low-income seniors on the Kitsap Peninsula,” she said. “They have beloved pets, but were struggling to make ends meet, to feed themselves and their companion animals. I told Dave about their plight and suddenly, I was picking up several pallets of food for the food bank there.”
In October 2005, Piland was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma, an aggressive, malignant brain tumor. Between multiple surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, he kept working, both at Silvertips games and as store manager of DeYoung’s Farm and Garden in Woodinville. As a volunteer coach, he guided his daughter Crissy’s basketball team to an age-group championship and was named coach of the year.
Through it all, he earned the admiration of friends and associates for his unyielding faith and positive attitude.
Both friends and strangers pitched in to help with everyday jobs. Volunteers did yard work and put up Christmas lights on the Pilands’ house. Friends brought meal after meal (toward the end, Piland greatly favored mashed potatoes and gravy from Kentucky Fried Chicken). Others chipped in to help with travel costs.
As Piland’s condition weakened, more help came in waves. Workers renovated the family’s downstairs area and made it an all-encompassing living area, so Piland wouldn’t have to negotiate stairs.
“He never once at any time said, ‘Why me?’” Wilson said. “He looked at it as a challenge, something that would make him stronger. Silvertips games won’t be the same without Dave. His voice got fans out of their seats and, in turn, fed the players’ enthusiasm. Apart from that, I’ll miss the chances I had just to talk to him and marvel at his inner strength.”
Piland leaves his widow, Lisa; sons T.J. and Greg; and daughters Crissy and Katie.