Sunday, December 19, 2021

Join the NHL, See North America

Okay, the title of this blog post doesn't exactly represent the first "perk" that would cross the minds of most young, future pro hockey players. But it is a perk, isn't it?
There are many beautiful places across the United States and Canada, and professional hockey players, with all the road games they play throughout each season, can certainly tell you a thing or two about numerous cities north, south, east, and west.
However, as true as that might be, all of these players have a home team. And a home city. That means they only stay in each road city for a day or so before moving on to the next one, or heading back home for a few games.

But what about the rare players who've really experienced North America? The guys who've not only played in various cities, but also lived in them throughout their careers while playing for different teams? 
Well, one man stands on top of that hill. It's Mike Sillinger. 

This remarkable guy suited up for 12 teams across his 17-year NHL career. As of this writing, no other player in league history has reached even 11 teams, and only a small handful of players have reached 10. (If you're wondering where Jaromir Jagr falls on the list, he topped out at 9.)
Considering the logistics involved—finding a new home, selling your old one, moving your belongings and family, packing and unpacking your cold-weather or warm-weather clothing, learning the local roads, getting accustomed to your new teammates and media personalities—it's quite a remarkable accomplishment.
And all those stresses aside, the guy still had to try to bring his best game to the rink every night.

So let's have a look at Mike Sillinger's complete journey through the league, via trading cards and some stats. (Thanks to the internet for the cards shown in this post.)

1991-92 Upper Deck #457

All aboard: Detroit
1990-91 through 1994-95
129 GP, 14 G, 45 A, 59 PTS, 28 PIM 
(.46 points per game average)

1995-96 Upper Deck #72

 Next stop: Anaheim
1994-95 through 1995-96
77 GP, 15 G, 26 A, 41 PTS, 38 PIM 
(.53 points per game average)

1997-98 Collector's Choice #260

Next stop: Vancouver
1995-96 through 1997-98
138 GP, 28 G, 32 A, 60 PTS, 65 PIM 
(.43 points per game average)

1998-99 Pacific #331
Next stop: Philadelphia
1997-98 through 1998-99
52 GP, 11 G, 14 A 25 PTS, 24 PIM 
(.48 points per game average)
1999-00 Pacific Omega #219
Next stop: Tampa Bay
1998-99 through 1999-00
121 GP, 27 G, 27 A, 54 PTS, 114 PIM 
(.45 points per game average)

2000-01 Upper Deck Vintage #159

 Next stop: Florida
1999-00 through 2000-01
68 GP, 17 G, 25 A, 42 PTS, 60 PIM 
(.62 points per game average)

2001-02 O-Pee-Chee #194

Next stop: Ottawa
13 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 7 PTS, 4 PIM 
(.54 points per game average)

2001-02 Upper Deck #282
Next stop: Columbus
2001-02 through 2002-03
155 GP, 38 G, 48 A, 86 PTS, 106 PIM 
(.55 points per game average)

2003-04 Upper Deck #398
Next stop: Phoenix
60 GP, 8 G, 6 A, 14 PTS, 54 PIM 
(.23 points per game average)

2005-06 Upper Deck Artifacts #86
Next stop: St. Louis
2003-04 through 2005-06
64 GP, 27 G, 24 A, 51 PTS, 63 PIM 
(.80 points per game average)

2005-06 Parkhurst #272
Next stop: Nashville
31 GP, 10 G, 12 A, 22 PTS, 14 PIM 
(.71 points per game average)

2006-07 Upper Deck Victory #259
Last stop: Long Island
2006-07 through 2008-09
141 GP, 42 G, 45 A, 87 PTS, 74 PIM 
(.62 points per game average)

And for those of you who enjoy a good visual, here are Sillinger's career stops on a map:

But now scroll back up to the stats for a moment, and notice the points-per-game breakdown per team. You'll see just how consistent Mr. Sillinger was throughout his career, despite the different teams, offensive and defensive systems, and line mates. It goes without saying that the guy was bright, had a great work ethic, and perhaps an even greater determination to succeed. 
Here are some other interesting facts and figures:
  • Mr. Sillinger played in 1,049 games over his career, tallied 240 goals and 308 assists for 548 points, and accumulated 644 penalty minutes.
  • He put up 24 career shorthanded goals, which is top-50 all time as of this writing.
  • He had a very high face-off win percentage throughout his career, never dipping below 55% for a season and going as high as 63.26%.
  • His best individual season was 2005-06. Between the Blues and Predators, Sillinger played 79 games and put up 32 goals and 31 assists for 63 points, along with 63 penalty minutes, a shorthanded goal, and two game-winning goals.
  • He wore 10 different jersey numbers across his NHL career: 7, 21, 15, 23, 12, 26, 11, 18, 16, and 81.
  • The most seasons he played for any team was four, with Detroit. 
  • His son Cole was a first-round draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets (12th overall) this past summer. The team has already signed him to a three-year, entry level contract. Cole's brothers, Owen and Lukas, currently play for the Bemidji State University hockey team in the NCAA.
So here's to Mike Sillinger. What a terrific career across 12 North American cities. 
And if you ever need some good recommendations for restaurants, hotels, or attractions in any of them, you know who to ask.


  1. Very cool, I love stuff like this. And why I feel a bigger league is better, it allows for stuff like this to happen. I just got my first card of his son a couple of weeks ago.

    1. You know you're getting older when the players you grew up watching have sons who are making NHL lineups ;-)

  2. Having trouble typing comments in folks' comment boxes, so let's see how this works:

    I'm surprised that NHL players haven't gotten up to a dozen stops too often. For whatever reason, it seems like the NHL moved their players a lot more often than in baseball, but maybe that's not the case.

    1. I wonder about that. I'm sure there's a statistician out there who could write a good article on the subject.

  3. The nearly daily traveling always seemed to me like it would be the worst thing about being a professional athlete. Relocating would be second.

    1. Agreed, Jon. It's just so much travel, and that's on top of trying to compete at the highest level once you get to each city. Oh, and then there's the occasional change in time zone and even altitude. (e.g., Colorado) The life of a pro athlete definitely isn't all glamour.