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Mike Sillinger retires, 18 NHL teams miss out on the pleasure

Mike Sillinger

#18 / Center / New York Islanders

Jun 29, 1971

(parts of) 17


8 (Ana, Van, Phi, TB, Fla, Ott, STL, Nsh)

240g, 308a, 548p


about 25 million-bazillion-katrillion

It would've only taken 18 more NHL teams for Mike Sillinger to complete the circuit, but time and health ran out on the dependable, gritty, speedy, unsung defensive forward with sniper's hands.

After another hip surgery last winter prevented him from continuing his trademark speed without pain, the former Red Wing, Duck, Canuck, Flyer, Lightning, Panther, Senator, Blue Jacket, Coyote, Blue, Predator and Islander is calling it quits at age 38. Twelve teams, nine different numbers, 12,000 minutes of ice time, enough key faceoffs for every Chinese man, woman and child.

How do I know Mike Sillinger rocked? Well, I got to watch him closely with two different teams (hey, the odds were in favor of that) where he stepped up and had his best offensive seasons -- late in his career.

Teams may have typecast Sillinger; anyone who saw him place a wrist shot in the corner under checking pressure knew he didn't typecast himself. His career-high 32-goal season was split between a bad Blues team and a rising Predators squad. His second-highest, 26-goal season came with the Islanders the next year, his last full year before two injury-ravaged campaigns spelled the end. His career playoff ice time average was 19 minutes per game: Coaches trusted Mike Sillinger.

And his many NHL clubs, they didn't send Sillinger away; they sought him out as "the final piece" time and time again. Sadly, the teams that acquired him -- eight times he was traded in-season -- never had the guns to go all the way. He played a responsible two-way game and was ace on faceoffs, but when a team's scorers were out -- or when the team simply had no scorers -- Sillinger stepped up and showed you why he was Detroit's first-round pick (#11) in 1989: The guy had serious hands to go with those wheels. If he was only a "suitcase" joke or legend to you, you missed out on a guy who simply knew how to play hockey.

The specter of this forced end always hung over our heads, even when he made his 2008-09 debut half way through last season. This is a young man's game now, and once your wheels are gone ... it's over. It's a shame he couldn't walk out on his terms. It's a shame the Islanders are having training camp this year near his birthplace yet he can't be there as a player.

It doesn't always work out the way we want, or end like we dreamed. But all in all, Mr. Mike Sillinger had one hell of a career. There's not a hockey parent out there who wouldn't be proud to see their child play the game the way he did.