Riley Cote has never been one to back down from a challenge on the ice. Unfortunately, multiple sclerosis doesn't skate. If it did, it would be no problem for Cote to take care of it.
Instead, the disease is a much different kind of challenge, and much more formidable than an opponent who's dropped the gloves. Still, Cote hasn't backed down from this challenge, either. His sister Jaime was diagnosed with the disease eight years ago, and since then, Cote has done all he can to raise awareness for the fight against the disease.
That fight will continue this Sunday when Cote teams up with the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America for the second annual Cote Carnival at Swanky Bubbles in Cherry Hill, NJ from 12-3 PM. Tickets for the event are $50 for adults and $20 for kids under 12, and include food, drinks, entertainment and more. Tickets are on sale now at www.cotecarnival.net
Fans will be able to meet several members of the Flyers organization, including Jeff Carter, Ray Emery, Arron Asham and James van Riemsdyk
. Danny Briere
and other players are planning to join them, as well as several Flyers alumni. There will also be a silent auction featuring many great items, including a basket of gift certificates to local restaurants valued at $2300, local sports memorabilia, a Philadelphia experience package that includes a Segway tour of the city, an overnight stay and dinner for two, and much more. All proceeds from the event go to benefit MSAA.
Cote's hockey career has already been a success story. He went undrafted after his junior career in the Western Hockey League, but remained determined. He went to the lower minor leagues, playing for teams in the Central Hockey League and ECHL. He began to work his way up, getting a couple chances from American Hockey League teams in his first two years.
He was headed back to ECHL Dayton in 2004 when he received a late invitation to Flyers training camp, and hooked on with the Philadelphia Phantoms for their Calder Cup championship season in 2004-05. He caught the eye of the Flyers front office, and in 2007, finally earned his first NHL call-up to the Flyers. He made the big club to stay in the fall of that year.
Even when he was with the Phantoms, Cote was always the first to be involved in the community on the team's behalf. That continued when he became a full-time member of the Flyers. But at that point, Cote also started using those resources to contribute to the fight against multiple sclerosis. The team learned of Jaime Cote's fight with the disease and approached him about putting together a benefit night in conjunction with a game.
"When it first started, it was kind of mutual," Cote said. "They were thinking of having an MS night and they approached me and tossed some ideas around."
The Flyers held that first Multiple Sclerosis Night in March of 2008 during Cote's rookie NHL season. Jaime was the team's guest that evening, and spent time speaking with the local media about her battle with the disease. Then last summer, Cote and the Flyers teamed up to found the Cote Carnival. The inaugural event raised $17,000 for MSAA's efforts to fight the disease.
"Someone came up with the idea of doing the Carnival," Cote said. "It started out as a grass-roots thing, but then the team got involved and it kind of expanded from there. I really didn't know what to except because I've never done anything like that before, but it turned out really well. It was really organized, and obviously you can always improve, but for the most part we got nothing but positive feedback from everybody, and everything ran smoothly."
This year's Carnival looks to build on that success. There will be several activities going on both inside and outside Swanky Bubbles, including a game room presented by the Cherry Hill Best Buy store where fans can play Guitar Hero and other Nintendo Wii games on two big-screen TVs. Cote is particularly excited about the silent auction, which he says is much, much bigger than last year.
While a good time is planned for all, the underlying goal is clear – an ongoing battle with one of the toughest opponents there is.
"I'm in a position where I have an opportunity to give back," Cote said. "It hits close to home for me. It's a chance to do something to raise money for at least one cause. We started out small and it turned out great, so it's a good feeling to know that you can make a difference. It may be tiny, but it's a difference."