By Kaitlynn Nordal
When your Father is a former National Hockey League (NHL) player it’s no surprise that you sleep, eat, and breathe hockey.
Cole Sillinger’s father is Mike Sillinger who played 17 seasons in the NHL. Cole is from Regina Saskatchewan and currently plays for the Medicine Hat Tigers. He has been playing hockey since he was old enough to wear a pair of skates.
“My Dad said I started skating when I was three,” said Sillinger who plays left wing. “I just grew up in it (with) my dad being a former NHL player and having two older brothers that loved playing hockey I think I was just born into it.”
Earlier this year organizers for the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge contacted the Medine Hat Tigers and assistant coach Ryan Smith agreed Sillinger would be a good fit for one of Canada’s three teams in the tournament.
“He’s had a great start to his WHL (Western Hockey League) career. He’s been one of our top players and at 16 that’s special. He’s probably exceeded expectations. We knew he was going to be really good, but he probably played above what we thought was normal for a rookie 16-year-old.” said Smith.
Sillinger then spent a week in Calgary Alberta in July for tryouts.
“It went pretty well,” said Sillinger about the tryouts, “I trained hard going into the event and I skated hard. That was something I kept in the back of my mind that I wanted to be in this tournament especially because it’s in Medicine Hat. I faired pretty well I knew a couple guys on the team and built chemistry with the new guys which helped me, so it was good.”
Those chosen for tryouts were given the opportunity based on their playing ability. It only took a few weeks for Sillinger to find out he made it into the tournament and would be playing for Canada’s Team White.
“I was hanging out at home after practice with my billet brother and got a call. It was someone from Hockey Canada and he congratulated me and said I was going to be a part of this tournament. I was super excited.” said Sillinger.
After hearing the news Smith was excited for Sillinger.
“I think the thing about Cole is that he is an elite hockey player. He’s one of those kids where he’s …a good person and it’s no coincidence that he’s had success in hockey early. He’s grounded and he works hard. He cares about others and he’s an all-around good person. We’re proud he’s representing the Medicine Hat Tigers at this event.” said Smith.
Medicine Hat and Swift Current were selected as co-hosts for the 33rd annual World Under-17 Hockey Challenge Nov. 2-9, 2019. It has been nerve-wracking the last few weeks to get ready for the tournament but Sillinger is up to the challenge.
“It was a hard week of practices last week with the Tigers and (I) had a good couple of games on the weekend so that helped me get ready. This season playing against bigger stronger guys and having to accept different roles I think helped me get ready for this,” said Sillinger.
Sillinger has one goal when it comes to this tournament, win gold.
“If you are wearing a Canadian jersey your goal is to bring home gold in the tournament you want to be the best team there. Canada always has a good chance of doing that and I think that’s the goal, to win the tournament,” said Sillinger.
Although the rest of the Medicine Hat Tigers hockey team will be in British Columbia for a game at the time, they are all cheering Sillinger on.
“We hope that he does well, and we hope his team can win gold. He’s representing Canada which is always special and for him, it’s a big accomplishment. Knowing Cole and knowing who he is as a person and as a player he’ll have success at this tournament. Our hopes are that he is a major player, he does well, and that his team brings home gold. If he can be part of a gold-winning team that’s pretty special.” said Smith.
Since the World Under –17 Hockey Challenge started more than 1,800 players have been drafted into the NHL with this list including names such as Ilya Kovalchuk, (2001), Marc-André Fleury (2003), Alexander Ovechkin (2004) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) and Auston Matthews (2016).
Feature Image Photo Credit: Randy Feere / Medicine Hat Tigers