It was a phone call from good friend Mike Commodore, in fact, that tipped him off.
"Mike called and immediately began chirping, telling me his parents had a couple extra rooms at their place (in Alberta) and that I could stay with them," Cole told NHL.com. "At that point I knew something was up and I just tossed the phone over to Willie and told him to talk to Commodore while I finished out my hole."
It wasn't long after that Cole returned a message from Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford, who confirmed that he had been traded to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defenseman Joni Pitkanen.
"My name had been rumored in trades for more than a year, so I think I had a hint that something might happen," Cole said. "It was hard in the sense that I developed deep relationships in Raleigh. I've got a lot of friends in that area that have nothing to do with the hockey team and the ones that are involved with the team are some of the closest friends I'll have moving forward the rest of my life.
"I didn't really know what to expect coming to Edmonton, but I think it's been pretty positive being in a traditional hockey city. It's a lot different feel than what I experienced in Carolina, for sure."
On Saturday, Cole returns to the RBC Center, the place he spent the first 6 seasons of his career, highlighted by winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. There's no question playing in the arena where he was so appreciated will flood his memory bank.
"The fans in Carolina were unbelievable when I played there," Cole said. "They always made it easy for me to go about my business, live my life and enjoy myself and my family. We really had a great time raising our children (Bella and Landon) there and, actually, the plan right now is to retire there unless we find someplace better. I've got family that still lives in Raleigh."
Despite the change in scenery, Cole continues to play the game at top speed, something Oilers President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe certainly took into consideration when he decided to add the rambunctious 6-foot-2, 205-pound wing to his roster.
"He's a big body, skates well and fits into our game plan," Lowe said.
Cole had 22 goals and 51 points in 73 games with Carolina last season, registering his third straight 20-goal campaign. He scored 10 goals on the power-play, added 4 game-winning goals and finished with a plus-5 rating. The hard-hitting Cole also led the Hurricanes with 186 hits.
"I play a certain way, and while it may be a little out of control sometimes, I'm just trying to do a job," Cole said. "I guess you could say I'm somewhere between reckless abandon and maintaining some sense of composure. I just want to have that energy and emotion to spark a team and turn the momentum of the game."
Cole left the Hurricanes having skated in 418 career regular-season games, No. 7 all-time in Carolina history. He ranks third all-time in goals (129) and shorthanded goals (7), fourth in penalty minutes (406) and sixth in assists (151), points (280) and power-play goals (32).
He also left an impact off the ice through his tireless charity work, He established the Dream Big Foundation in 2007, and it promotes everything from youth hockey to library and hospital expansion in his hometown of Oswego, N.Y. The non-profit organization was created to support youth hockey programs and children suffering from cancer and other diseases.
"I think it's going to be a fun game to play and should be a great atmosphere and I'm kind of looking forward to getting this game under my belt and out of the way to kind of confirm to myself that I am moving on," Cole said. "What better way for me to kind of cut off the past and move forward with the present? For the first game, I'd rather have it there then having them come to Edmonton."
After starting the season on the Oilers' top line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky, he has since been inserted alongside Ethan Moreau and Fernando Pisani.
"The thing I've noticed about this team is the enthusiasm," Cole said. "They're all excited to come and work hard and be a part of it. So I think when you have that, it makes it pretty easy to come to the rink and enjoy yourself. It's easy being around guys like that."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.