Sometimes men have a little trouble remembering things. Anniversaries and birthdays, for example, have a history of being bumped in the male brain for things such as which weekend the Super Bowl is being played on and how many paychecks have to be sacrificed in order to obtain that new set of golf clubs.
Mike Sillinger, who suited up for an NHL-record 12 teams, could be forgiven if some of the finer details of his family life have been lost in a haze of boxes and moving vans. But if Sillinger ever is asked to recall where each of his three sons was born, he’s got a visual reminder to rely on: the NHL jersey he was wearing at the time.
“One was born in Vancouver, so we have the Vancouver jersey in his room,” Sillinger said. “My other boy was born in Regina, but I played in Florida at the time, so he picked the Panthers along with my Team Canada (1991 world junior) jersey because he wears 16 (one of his dad’s old numbers) when he plays.
“And my other boy was born in Columbus, so he’s got the Columbus one in his room.”
Sillinger, who retired in the summer of 2009 at age 38, has at least one jersey from every team he played with during his 1,049 NHL games – not to mention a few prior to his big-league days – framed and displayed in his Regina, Sask., home. That’s why having some in his boys’ bedrooms not only adds a personal touch, but helps solve the need for extra wall space.
“It’s good, because you have to find a place to put them all,” said Sillinger, now the director of player development for the Edmonton Oilers. “The rest are downstairs in my basement.”
When you play for as many teams as Sillinger did during his career, you’re bound to don some colors and logos that aren’t exactly the pinnacle of high hockey fashion. His workday wardrobe took a pretty hard hit when he was dealt from Detroit to Anaheim in April of 1995. He said the original Ducks logo, inspired by the Disney movie, was one of the jerseys that could actually incite a group of hockey-playing men to discuss the need for a makeover. And it wasn’t the only one.
“I’d say Nashville, too, when I played there,” Sillinger said. “They’re kind of funky jerseys, especially those awful yellow ones. The third jersey was a little different.”
Of course, appearance never is the dominant factor in determining how fondly a player remembers a former team. For Sillinger, two of the most meaningful crests he wore came before he suited up for a single NHL game in his well-travelled career. One is the Detroit sweater he was handed the day the Wings drafted him 11th overall in 1989. In fact, that was his first jersey to find its way into a frame.
“When I was drafted, the guy who owned the Boston Pizza here (in Regina) framed it and put it in his restaurant for a few years,” Sillinger said. “And the deal was when I wanted it back in my house, I would just take it. So we kind of got the idea from that.”
The other sweater of great significance is comprised of the Team Canada colors he wore during the 1991 World Junior Championship, when he was his province’s only representative in a Saskatoon-based tournament won by Canada thanks to John Slaney’s famous slapper against the Russians.
“I have it framed, but I have it framed with the gold medal inside, which is kind of cool,” Sillinger said. “I was the only Saskatchewan boy to play on that team, so it was very special.”
By Ryan Dixon
This is an excerpt from THN’s 2011 book, Hockey’s Most Amazing Records.