Superior native Mike Sislo retires from pro hockey
Sislo was a junior on the Superior Spartans' 2005 state championship team.
Mike Sislo’s 10-year professional hockey career has come to an end.
Sislo is the only person from Superior to play in the National Hockey League. He officially retired on Nov. 1, 2019.
Last summer, he signed a one-year contract with Grizzlys Wolfsburg (Germany) of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). He played in five preseason games and had three assists in nine regular-season games when his season ended because of injuries.
“I had hip surgery last spring from a lingering issue, and thought I was making progress,” Sislo said. “Then, as the season got going in Germany, I started having back issues. It was a combination of the two, but more so the back, that led to my decision to retire.”
Sislo, who will turn 32 on Jan. 20, had six goals and nine assists in 39 games during the 2018-19 season with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers before his season was hampered by hip problems.
“The hip I felt was on the right path to getting back to normal, but the back issues were a major setback,” Sislo said. “With the pain playing, and away from the rink, I had to start listening to the body.
“Retiring was a tough decision in the sense of what I was giving up and doing something I loved. But just with the pain and knowing that the back probably wasn't going to get better, I didn’t feel like it was that tough of a decision — or even really a decision at all.”
Sislo was a junior on the Superior Spartans' 2005 state championship team and played played two seasons with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers before playing at the University of New Hampshire from 2007-2011.
The son of Superior's Brian (Buddy) and Karen Sislo, he signed a two-year entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils on April 5, 2011, and made his NHL debut with the Devils on Jan. 3, 2014, playing 8 minutes and 29 seconds and recording two shots on net, in a 5-3 loss to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.
“Playing in the NHL was a dream come true,” Sislo said. “There were a lot of ups and downs on the way, but there were also a lot of great experiences that I’m proud of. And to hear I’m the first (from Superior to play in the NHL) is pretty special. Hopefully there’s more to come.”
Sislo appeared in a career-high 18 NHL games with the Devils in 2015-16. In 42 career NHL games, he recorded five points (three goals, two assists).
Sislo’s professional career included playing in the AHL for the Albany Devils (New Jersey), San Antonio Rampage (St. Louis Blues), Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs), Tucson Roadrunners (Arizona Coyotes) and Bridgeport Sound (New York Islanders).
Since retiring, Sislo has been relaxing and spending time with his family. He resides in Superior.
“I’ve been feeling good,” he said. “I’ve had a few issues (with my back), especially with all the snow and having to shovel. But overall I feel pretty good.”
While at UNH, Sislo earned a degree in health management and policy.
“I’ve had some time to reflect, and I’m looking forward to pursuing something within the health field,” he said. “But it’s still early on, and I’m just starting to get the ball rolling, so I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be or what I’ll end up doing.
“I hope to stay in the area, that’s my goal. Hopefully I can find some stability and get some normalcy back in my life again.”
Normalcy could also lead Sislo to get involved in the local hockey scene.
“I would like to get involved at some level, whether its at SAHA (Superior Amateur Hockey Association) or the high school,” Sislo said. “If people thought I could help, I would definitely be interested in doing something like that in the future.”
That would also be a way for Sislo to give back to the many people who helped him on his journey, he said.
“I was very lucky with all of the support I’ve gotten through the years from my family, friends and Superior as a whole,” Sislo said. “Superior was a great place to grow up and the support I had from everybody really helped along the way.”
SPARTAN SPIN: After helping the Spartans win the 2005 state championship, Sislo skated for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL for two seasons. He followed up a six-point season in 57 games in 2005-06 with 49 points (23 goals, 26 assists) in 60 games in year two. ... Sislo had 116 points (51 goals, 65 assists) with the UNH Wildcats. He scored his first collegiate point against Boston College on Nov. 10, 2007, and his first career goal came at Vermont on Feb. 1, 2008. He scored a career high six points on Dec. 11, 2008 vs. Holy Cross.