Mike Sislo’s professional hockey career will continue in Germany.
Sislo, 31, the first player from Superior to play in the National Hockey League, recently signed a one-year contract with Grizzlys Wolfsburg of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL).
The Grizzlys play their games at Eis Arena in Wolfsburg, Germany.
“I’m really excited,” Sislo said. “It’s a new chapter in my hockey career and something I’ve been thinking about for a few years. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Sislo will play this coming season on a one-year contract.
“I really just want to see how this season goes,” Sislo said. “I’m not looking too far ahead, but of course I would like to play as long as I can. But as you get older, your body doesn't cooperate sometimes. I’m just trying to get as healthy as I can and play as long as I can.”
Sislo will also be playing in the same league as longtime friend and teammate Brett Olson.
Olson has been playing in Europe for three seasons, including the last two with ERC Ingolstadt (Bavaria, Germany), which is about a five-hour bus drive from Wolfsburg.
In two seasons with Ingolstadt, Olson had 22 goals and 21 assists. He also had 11 goals and 27 assists for Salzburg EC in Austria during the 2016-17 season.
“It’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed getting the opportunity to play over there and learning how to get involved in other cultures,” Olson said. “You see so many different cultures in Europe. The hockey’s good, but that’s just one added benefit. You get to see the world from another perspective.
“Over here in North America, we can kind of get a little clouded and not understand why or what other people are doing. But once you’re among somebody else's culture, you understand where they’re coming from.”
Growing up, with Olson a year older than Sislo, the two were teammates every other year, including on state championship teams at the peewee and bantam levels. The two then capped off their high school careers by leading the Superior Spartans to the 2005 Wisconsin state championship. They also finished second at state in 2004.
Following high school, Sislo and Olson enjoyed successful collegiate careers at New Hampshire and Michigan Tech, respectively.
Sislo then spent the last 13 years playing professionally in the AHL for the Albany Devils, San Antonio Rampage, Toronto Marlies, Tucson Roadrunners and Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
During the span, he also played 42 games in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, registering three goals and two assists.
In 39 games last year with Bridgeport, an affiliate of the New York Islanders, Sislo had six goals and nine assists before his season was hampered with an early a hip injury.
“It was a good season for the Islanders and a good season for Bridgeport,” Sislo said. “Unfortunately, I got banged up early on in the year and never really recovered. My recovery is going great, hopefully I’ll be fairly close to 100% when I head over to Germany and get ready for the season.”
Olson, who also played four years in the AHL, will leave for Germany on Aug. 3, while Sislo is expected to leave a bit earlier. The season begins in September.
While neither one has seen the upcoming schedule, they are looking forward to that game, because it may be the first time they will be playing against each other on the ice.
“It will definitely be fun,” Olson said. “The last opportunity I had to play against Mike was when I was with Portland and he was with Albany, but one of us was injured that game. So it will be interesting to finally be able to play against him.”
There is still a chance the two could be teammates again in the future.
“I talked to their GM and coach a while back and I would love to play with Brett,” Sislo said. “Maybe in the future that will happen. But this year it didn’t work out.”
While Sislo’s contract is just one year, Olson is hoping to get two more years out of his contract.
“I’ll be 35 in two years, so I’ll see how I feel then,” Olson said.
Another benefit of playing in Germany will the ability to do a lot of sightseeing.
“Obviously my No. 1 priority is hockey, but I am looking forward to being able to do a little bit of traveling and sightseeing a different part of the world,” Sislo said.
NOTES: According to Wikipedia, Sislo’s new team is actually named after the title character of "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams.” …Wolfsburg is also home to the Czech automobile manufacturer Škoda Auto, which belongs to the Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen Group.