Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The NHL's Everyman hits a grand

If you have tickets for the game at the old barn on Thursday night, I'd like to ask a personal favor: please do everything possible to be at your seats by 7:03.

That's when a very good man is going to be honored for reaching a major milestone.

Mike Sillinger plays his 1,000th NHL regular season game on Thursday when the Islanders host Tampa Bay. Mike will be joined by his wife Karla and sons Owen, Lukas and Cole for a brief and classy ceremony. There will be presentations by Garth Snow and Chris Dey, representing Islanders management, Billy Guerin on behalf of all of Sillinger's teammates and Jim Gregory for the NHL.

The biggest gift all of the Sillingers could ever receieve, of course, is a standing ovation.

What a career Silli has had. We all know about the many trades he's been a part of, but have you ever really taken a long look at his career stats? Do you realize that when he finishes the current regular season with the Islanders, Mike will have been with the Islanders for more games than any of the other franchises he's been with?

I'll be frank. There have been a few players in this league whose names are attached to the tag "much-travelled" and I can understand why. But Sillinger? Good guy, funny, sincere, selfless. Makes no sense at all.

I spoke with one of those big-time connected Canadian TV broadcasters tonight to make sure there wasn't something horrible about Sillinger I've missed. I was set straight.

"For Sillinger, all the trades have nothing to do with him being a bad guy or anything," my source said. "He's always had a good attitude about moving around - that other teams have simply wanted him - and he's right. The only thing he's been guilty of is being the perfect in-season acquisition: experienced, solid in both ends, brilliant on faceoffs. He can score some goals for you and he's a coach's dream."

Among the many things to love about Sillinger, he comes across like he grew up around the block from you, no matter where you are in North America. He gives it out and takes it with the best of them.

A few weeks ago I was with the team on a road trip. When we arrived at the rink for practice, I let everybody get off the bus before I got up. Sillinger, the last player to depart, walked by and asked me if everything was all right.

"Oh yeah, thanks Mike," I said. "I usually like to have the athletes get off the bus first, so now it's okay for you and me to leave." That got a laugh out of Guerin.

Mike Sillinger, the NHL's Everyman, plays his 1000th NHL game on Thursday. Do your part to give him the kind of night Mike, Karla and the kids deserve.

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