BROSSARD – Erik Cole
may not be from Montreal, but after signing a four-year deal with the Canadiens on Friday, he feels like he’s coming home.
Born a few hours south of Montreal in Oswego, NY, it’s no surprise that growing up, Cole dreamed of one day being able to pull on a Canadiens jersey of his own. Now nearly a decade into his NHL career, the 32-year-old winger is about to do just that.
“I don’t think I’ve been shy about saying what my favorite building is to play in. The feeling you get when you come into Montreal is special. The city just has this aura about it,” described Cole, who has racked up 25 points in 28 games against the Canadiens – his most against any NHL team to date. “The building is special and then they have that big opening before the game starts. Whatever game you play there, I don’t understand how it’s not your best game – and then the next time you play, now that should be the best game you’ve ever played in.
“Now I’m just worried about having to go on the road – other buildings just aren’t going to be exciting anymore,” joked the 6-foot-2 bruiser. “I said to my agent, ‘Man, I’m going to be a heck of a homer because every time I go on the road, it’s just not going to be as good!’
Despite spending almost his entire nine-year career in Carolina, Cole will still have a few friendly faces around to help make the adjustment a little easier this fall. Former Team USA teammate Brian Gionta
already rolled out the welcome mat and helped seal the deal on Friday afternoon.
“It was very early in the process that Montreal had contacted my agent with interest and as soon as I got off the phone with him my wife and I wrote down a few questions and I called Gio,” explained Cole, who played alongside Gionta and Scott Gomez
at the 2006 Olympics in Turino. “We wanted to bounce some ideas off him in terms of his transition to Montreal and how he and his family are enjoying it and it was a big help, especially since I have two kids myself. Obviously, he spoke very highly not just of the organization, but of the fans, the practice facility, the quality of life – everything.”
While the Habs captain played a role in helping to recruit the coveted power forward to Montreal, there were 21,273 other factors that helped lead Cole to his final decision.
“The fans are so passionate and they want to see their team win and be successful and they are the driving force of the team, in my opinion,” offered Cole, who racked up 26 goals and 52 points with the Hurricanes last season. “The way the crowd is and how the fans in that town perceive things and how they are motivated by certain things can drive this team north or south.
“I’m thrilled. It’s just the feeling when you’re in the city and the passion in the arena – I don’t think it’s matched anywhere else in the NHL,” he added. “To come to a franchise that’s so storied it’s going to be a thrill to get out there and play in a Habs uniform.”
With four 20 goal seasons and a Stanley Cup championship with the ‘Canes in 2006 on his resume, Cole is looking to provide some extra leadership and firepower to the Canadiens’ lineup next year. But after finishing the 2010-11 campaign 13th in the NHL with 225 hits, he knows those won’t be the only roles he’ll be asked to fill with his new team.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that in the last couple of years Montreal has had a bit of a smaller average height than a lot of teams in the league,” he explained. “While I’m not the biggest body on the ice, I play a hard-nosed game. I try to use my skating to help me be effective along the walls and I’m not scared to take the puck to the net and opening up ice for other guys. Any role I’m asked to play, I’m going to play it as hard as I can.
“Right now, I couldn’t be any happier or prouder or more thankful,” he added. “I’m going to do everything I can to play as hard as I can and be as good a Montreal Canadien as I can be to make the organization and the fans proud to have me here.” Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSOErik Cole signs 4 years with Montreal Who is Peter Budaj? Two-year contract for goalie Peter Budaj Contractual status of Habs players Habs ink Yannick Weber to a 2-year deal