New York Islanders’ forward Mike Sillinger has played 18 years in the National Hockey League and has more than 1,000 games to his credit, but he is known mostly for the number of times he’s been traded.
Sillinger, who has missed most of this season because of his second hip operation in two seasons, has played for an NHL record 12 teams. He has been traded nine times — an NHL record he shares with Brent Ashton — including five times at deadline day.
Along the way he has been nicknamed Suitcase, something he’s come to accept. “I just kind of chuckle about it,” he said in a phone interview in advance of this year’s trade deadline tomorrow.
“It’s one of those things that I’m very proud to have played 18 years in the National Hockey League. It’s been an honour and a privilege to play as long as I have. Pretty much call me what you want because there’s a lot of people out there that would want to be in my shoes.”
A first-round draft pick of Detroit in 1989 after a four-year junior career with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, Sillinger experienced his first trade midway through the ’94-95 season when dealt to Anaheim. Henceforth he has played with Vancouver, Philadelphia, Tampa, Florida, Ottawa, Columbus, Phoenix, St. Louis, Nashville and the Islanders.
In some cases, he happened to be traded from a non-playoff team to a playoff team, only to have it work out the wrong way.
“I’ve had a lot of first-round exits,” he laughed.
Sillinger said there are pros and cons to being traded.
“Regardless of whether you’re having a good year or a bad year, you have to be positive with it,” he said. “You can’t sit there and hang your head. You have to look at it as a fresh start and a chance to move forward. It’s a chance to say another team wants you.
“The worst thing is just picking up and leaving all the friends you have on the team and the neighbours you meet. You just kind of pick up and leave your wife and kids behind.
“That’s kind of the saddest thing because you’re not quite sure when you’re going to see them again. Eventually you’ll hook up, but that all has to be planned.”
He credits his wife, Karla, for keeping the family together — they have boys 11, 8 and 5 — during the numerous upheavals caused by the trades.
“It’s a whirlwind,” he said. “I’m thankful for a very understanding wife. She’s the calming person in the family.”