RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Here's how Erik Cole spent his way-too-long summer: He played in the IIHF World Hockey championship, had eye surgery and lifted weights up to six days a week.
And, oh yeah, he dwelled on how quickly the Carolina Hurricanes fell from Stanley Cup champions to playoff no-shows.
"It's healthy to carry it around with you, especially while the playoffs are going on. It's pretty easy to," Cole said Thursday. "You're at the gym five, six days a week, trying to get stronger, trying to get healthier. When you're in the gym, you're thinking about last year. It's a pretty good motivator."
When training camp starts a week from Friday, the Hurricanes won't have to worry about those pesky short-summer blues or the hangover that typically follows a deep playoff run.
It's been almost exactly five months since Rod Brind'Amour scored the final goal of a disappointing 2006-07 season. And Cole is eager for a fresh start to the coming season to begin making up for becoming just the third team to follow a Stanley Cup-winning year by missing the playoffs.
"It's been quite a while," Cole said. "It can't get going fast enough."
This is a season the Hurricanes are eager to begin for several reasons. Not only do they want to rid themselves of last year's shortcomings, they're celebrating the franchise's 10th anniversary since relocating from Hartford, Conn.
The new-look uniforms Carolina unveiled follow the NHL-prescribed streamlined design but otherwise don't look much different than the previous sweater.
"I like the fact that we didn't get too far away from the traditional look that we've always had," Cole said.
The only noticeable changes include a single line of piping across the chest, the addition of the silver NHL logo below the collar of the jersey and a patch on the right chest commemorating the team's decade in North Carolina.
"It's one decade of many to come," said all-star forward Justin Williams. "It's a nice reminder, our patch, that we've made it this far."
Several off-season moves could help the Hurricanes take a step forward after last year's step back.
They kept forwards Ray Whitney and Scott Walker and goalie Cam Ward, who each could have been eligible for some form of free agency. They also reacquired third-line centre Matt Cullen - a key member of the 2006 Stanley Cup team and a player Carolina spent the season trying to replace.
The Hurricanes hope those moves will prevent the situation they faced last year, when they never could sustain the kind of strong play needed to charge toward a playoff berth. Instead, they entered the final few weeks needing a boost and wound up losing four of five late to fall out of postseason contention.
"We'll be ready. We were a game here, a game there from making the playoffs," Whitney said. "This year, we don't feel we're going to put ourselves in that situation."