After spending 17 years in the NHL, veteran Islanders forward Mike Sillinger announced his retirement yesterday, citing his injured left hip as the reason he decided to call it quits.
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Sillinger, 38, who underwent two separate procedures on his left hip in the matter of one year (microfracture surgery in February 2008 and hip resurfacing surgery in January 2009), said it didn’t feel ‘logical’ to try and play another season.
"It was my only concern,” Sillinger said on a conference call with reporters. “I fought and tried to come back and I never felt right. Everything looked good but I just knew something else was the matter. It wasn't just getting older, or my body not healing correctly.”
Sillinger, who was picked 11th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in a legendary 1989 draft class, played with a league record-setting 12 teams throughout his career. He had 87 points (42 goals, 45 assists) in his past three seasons with the Islanders, but played in only seven games last year after undergoing season-ending surgery on his hip.
Yesterday was bittersweet for Sillinger, who was known for his lockerroom leadership and prowess from the faceoff circle, but he said he is glad to have enjoyed such a lengthy NHL career.
"Today is a sad day for my family and I, but it's a new beginning. I'm so grateful to have played so long in the NHL," Sillinger said. "I thank the organizations and teammates who made my career a great success. I'm leaving hockey with many accomplishments and memories."
Islanders general manager Garth Snow thanked Sillinger for the impact he had on the team.
“We were very fortunate to have Mike as a member of our organization,” Snow said. “There will be a lasting effect with the impressions he made, especially on our young players.”
Given his age and health, Sillinger’s retirement was hardly surprising, but Snow said he’ll attempt to address the void internally rather than seek outside help.
"We'll try to fill it with the group we have, but they are big shoes to fill,” Snow said.
The NHL journeyman, who prided himself on his ability to step in and fulfill a role with each team he played, said he will remember his three seasons with the Islanders fondly.
"My time in Long Island was fantastic," Sillinger said. “No question the team needs a new facility -- and I hope they get it -- but it was a great place to play."