Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Erik Cole Autographed Card

A power forward is typically someone who can score at least 30 goals in a season while throwing his weight around enough to get 100 hits; they also usually get close to or more than 100 penalty minutes and act as a net-front presence to attract attention while leaving the puck-carrier free to roam, and to pounce on a rebound or deflect the puck in the net.

In his 13-season NHL career, Erik Cole surpassed the 25-goal mark four times, hitting 30 with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06 and 35 with the Montréal Canadiens in 2011-12. He usually led his teams in hits, hovering between 10th and 20th overall in the category.

He also suited up for the Edmonton Oilers (63 games in 2008-09), Dallas Stars (160 games between 2012 and 2015) and Detroit Red Wings (11 games in 2014-15). He retired after spending two full years away from the game trying to convince his body that his style of play and a certain 2006 hit by Brooks Orpik that broke two of his vertebrae wouldn't be able to stop him from playing the game he loves so much, but ultimately, he failed; at least the Canes - with whom he played for in parts of nine seasons over two stints - offered him a one-day contract to retire as a member of the team, before moving on as a team ambassador.

What surprised me most about his short time in Montréal is how much of a team player he was; he came in rocking a four-year, $18M contract and, although he expected top-line minutes, he never complained that those minutes came with a 22-year-old semi-rookie who was essentially to serve the same role as him on the right flank (Max Pacioretty) and his undersized best friend David Desharnais at center, while the team's best centerman (Tomas Plekanec) was given more minutes but tougher assignments (facing the opposition's top line, second-unit powerplay time, penalty killing) while simultaneously asked to revive all struggling (Lars Eller, Andrei Kostitsyn, Travis Moen, Rene Bourque) or injured wingers (Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta).

Even more impressive was when the team's 2009 first-round pick, local boy Louis Leblanc was recalled from the minors to play in his first game, Cole bought Leblanc's parents plane and game tickets so they could see their son face the Anaheim Ducks in California.

That's leadership, right there. That's the kind of thing that makes you forgive his being a Habs-killer for all those years.

I told him as much when he signed my card in blue sharpie in 2012:
That's card #162 from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Victory collection, depicting him wearing the Canes' white (away) uniform.

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