For Cole Sillinger, being named to Team Canada just shy of 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 sweeter, was knowing he
achieved the honour 10 years earlier in his career than his famous father.
And Mike couldn’t be prouder.
“He’s way ahead of the game, playing in the NHL at the age of 18 and having
a chance to represent his country at the worlds,” Mike said on the day the
team’s roster was announced. “We’ll be watching, we don’t care what time
the game is, we’ll be watching.”
This is the second time the youngest of the three Sillinger boys has been
named to a Canadian roster for a world championship, though only the first
time he’s been able to play. Last year, a late COVID-19 diagnosis forced
him away from Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team, which ultimately went
on to win a gold medal at the IIHF U18 World Championship in Texas.
So when Rick Nash, Canada’s assistant general manager – and director of
player development with the Blue Jackets – offered Cole a spot on the
worlds team during his NHL season exit meeting, he 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 anytime that you have a chance to
represent Canada, you’re going to want to do it and do it proudly,” Cole
“Anytime you get a chance to represent your country, it’s something that
you really look forward to,” Mike said. “It’s a great chance to meet new
guys and build that camaraderie while playing for that flag on the front of
“It’s pretty awesome.”
The 2000 version of Team Canada finished just shy of a medal, falling 2-1
to Finland in the bronze medal game. Mike had three goals in nine games as
In the first four games of the 2022 event, Cole has already
distinguishing himself as a goal scorer, having found the back of the net
twice. Though even with that early success, he doesn’t think there will
much joking with his dad until the games are done, knowing his father
earned a gold medal at the 1991 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“I don’t think there is any chirping going to be done until I have a chance
to [win a gold medal],” he laughs. “[Mike is] amazing, I’ve had so much
support from him and one of the things I’ve appreciated about him is, just
because he had his career, he understands there’s no extra 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, have had success in the NCAA,
and Owen finished the season with the Cleveland Monsters of the American
The Sillinger home clearly was – and is – a hockey house. Though Cole says
hockey didn’t come first in his childhood home, competition did.
“Whether it was golf or working out or even just who is going to eat dinner
first, we’re super competitive,” he explains.
“Cole is just very driven and is mature beyond his age and obviously that
comes from being around his brothers and a team environment,” Mike said. “I
didn’t think he’d get a chance [to play for Canada] right 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 anyway I can,” Cole says. “I think
that’s the goal when you put the Maple Leaf on is to forget about where you
played on your club team and … just leave your ego at the door and do
anything you can to help win.”
Which is the ultimate goal of this event for Canada and Cole, come home
with a gold medal. That way, he’ll already be even in the medal count with
his dad and still have a long career in which to surpass him.