The youngest member of Team Canada, Cole Sillinger faces his father’s legacy at the IIHF World Championship, but it’s a challenge he’s happy to take on
For Cole Sillinger, being named to Team Canada just before his 19th birthday was the icing on the cake for an impressive rookie season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. But what made it all the more enjoyable was knowing that he got the honor 10 years earlier in his career than his famous dad.
And Mike couldn’t be prouder.
“He’s ahead of the game, playing in the NHL as an 18-year-old and having the chance to represent his country at the world championships,” Mike said the day the roster was announced. been announced. “We will watch, no matter what time of the game, we will watch.”
It’s the second time the youngest of the three Sillinger boys has been named to a Canadian squad for a world championship, but it’s only the first time he’s been able to play. Last year, a late diagnosis of COVID-19 forced him to quit Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team, which eventually won a gold medal at the IIHF World U18 Championship in Texas.
So when Rick Nash, assistant general manager for Canada – and director of player development for the Blue Jackets – offered Cole a spot on the world championship team at his NHL season-end meeting, he said. jumped at the chance.
“[Nash] said I didn’t have to give him my answer right away, but I gave it to him right away because obviously any time you get a chance to represent Canada, you’ll want to do it and do it with pride,” Cole explains.
“Any time you get the chance to represent your country, it’s something you look forward to,” Mike said. “It’s a great opportunity to meet new guys and build that camaraderie while playing for that flag on the front of your jersey.
“That’s pretty awesome.”
The 2000 version of Team Canada finished just short of a medal, losing 2-1 to Finland in the bronze medal game. Mike scored three goals in nine games as captain.
In the first four games of the 2022 event, Cole has already distinguished himself as a goalscorer, having found the back of the net twice. Although even with this early success, he doesn’t think there will be much banter with his father until the games are over, knowing that his father won a gold medal at the 1991 World Junior Championship in the IIHF.
“I don’t think there will be any tweets until I have the chance to [win a gold medal],” he’s laughing. “[Mike is] amazing i had so much support from him and one of the things i liked about him is that just because he had his career he understands that there are no doors open for my brothers and me and it’s just time for us to create our own path.
Mike’s career spanned 1,049 games over 18 NHL seasons with 12 teams. Sillinger’s older brothers, Owen and Lukas, had success in the NCAA, and Owen finished the season with the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League.
The Sillinger house was clearly – and is – a house of hockey. Although Cole says hockey didn’t come first to his childhood home, competition did.
“Whether it’s golf, practice or even who goes to dinner first, we’re super competitive,” he explains.
“Cole is just very driven and mature beyond his age and that obviously comes from being around his brothers and a team environment,” Mike said. “I didn’t think he would have a chance [to play for Canada] straight away at the age of 18 but he had a pretty good year, and it takes different pieces to build a team and he can play in different situations.
“For me, I just want to help the team any way I can,” Cole says. “I think the goal when you put on the maple leaf is to forget where you played on your club team and… just leave your ego at the door and do whatever you can to help win.
What is the ultimate goal of this event for Canada and Cole, to go home with a gold medal. This way, he will already be tied with his father in the medal count and still have a long career to surpass him.