BROSSARD – The pressure of playing in Montreal can bother some players; Erik Cole
probably won’t be one of them.
Soaking in the atmosphere at the Bell Centre has never been an issue for Cole, who has never been shy about which NHL arena is his favorite. On Thursday, the 32-year-old winger finally got a taste of what it’s like to be a part of the organization he grew up watching.
“I know my parents are excited and certainly all the guys I grew up with and all my cousins who grew up as big Habs fans are excited to see me play here,” explained Cole, who grew up a few hours south of Montreal in Oswego, NY. “When I was in grade school I remember being at sleepovers playing knee hockey and waiting for Hockey Night in Canada to come on.
“Putting on this jersey for the first time was great and it was fun to be able to go on the ice and see the kids,” he added after spending the day with some of his youngest fans at the Canadiens Hockey School. “It’s amazing the difference in the markets [between Montreal and Carolina] – just seeing how big the hockey school is was pretty impressive. And the facility alone is unbelievable. Nothing has been overlooked. I was getting the tour this morning and it was one ‘Wow!’’ after another. Everything is first class and really state-of-the-art.”
Playing professional hockey in North Carolina for the past nine seasons likely didn’t prepare Cole for the playoff-sized throng of Montreal media that awaited him at his new stall in the Habs dressing room. Luckily, the shifty power forward spent his high school career studying for such an occasion.
“What’s the best way to say this? Je suis fier de jouer pour une équipe dont les fans sont si passionnée. That took five years,” joked Cole, who opted to study French instead of Spanish while attending Oswego High School. “I’ve said it before, but the passion here is unbelievable. I get asked a lot why I play so well here and I think that it’s the passion and the atmosphere here more than anything.”
Seemingly embracing every aspect of playing for one of the most storied franchises in professional sports, is there anything the four-time 20-goal scorer isn’t looking forward to adapting to in his new NHL home?
“Well do I have to stand on a soap box everyday? No? Then I think I’ll be ok,” laughed the 6-foot-2 winger who had to stand on a riser so all 15 TV cameras could catch a glimpse of Cole in his new No.72 jersey. “I’m not worried about how things will be perceived here or how much attention will be on the team on a regular basis because it’s not something that I’m used to. I think it’ll be fun.
“Maybe it’s because the rink is right downtown and I used to walk along the metro to get to the games, but I just really, really enjoy everything about it here,” he added. “It’s probably the one arena that whenever you come here, you’d never want the door to the locker room closed before you went on the ice before the game. You wanted to hear it all – it’s an amazing atmosphere.”
The question becomes: after signing a four-year deal with the Canadiens on July 1, is the new Habs star still planning on riding the metro to the Bell Centre on game days?
“That remains to be seen,” he cracked. “But this is an exciting day for me and my family and hopefully it’s a great day for the Montreal Canadiens, too.”Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSO
Cole has new fans | Cole meets the press | Photo shoot
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