DETROIT – The Red Wings acquired Erik Cole at the trade deadline to add grit, toughness and some scoring punch down the stretch and into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But after playing just 11 games, Cole has been advised by doctors that the collision he had two weeks ago with Arizona forward Lauri Korpikoski was a season-ending one.
The 36-year-old Cole, who won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, suffered a spine contusion on March 24 that more than likely threatens the rest of his playing career.
“Unfortunately I consulted with a few doctors last week and I’ve been advised not to play the remainder of this season,” Cole said. “Just really disappointing and I was looking forward to be a part of the playoff run here and helping this team make a run to the Cup and I’m not gonna be able to do that.”
The injury leaves Cole wondering about the uncertainly of his future.
“Right now it’s just a wait and see and reevaluate the situation once everything is done,” Cole said. “I could probably run around the country and the world looking for doctors to do something right now but I don’t think there’s anything that’s a real short-term fix. When you have a contusion like that, it’ll affect your nerves, can affect your motor functions, can be a bit clumsy even sending a text message or something like that. So something I definitely need to take serious and be careful with.”
Cole addressed the team before their game Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena.
“It’s a hard for him,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Very emotional, if you’ve got kids you have to make life decisions and I don’t know if this means he’s done for good or just done through the summer. … But anytime you love doing something, it’s your passion and it’s taken away from you it’s hard to deal with.”
The injury occurred when Cole fell awkwardly into Korpikoski next to the Arizona crease. The 6-foot-2 power forward has a history of head and neck injuries. In March 2006, he broke his neck as the result of a hit from behind by Brooks Orpik. Cole returned three months later to play in Game 6 and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals for Carolina.
“It’s kind of something I’ve had to deal with and know the risk involved since I had my neck broken,” he said. “It’s just disappointing right now, it’s hard to look past that at this point but hopefully it’ll get better here in the next week with the guys winning a couple big games for us and getting into the playoffs. It’ll be easier to focus on other things.”
Cole said that he’s been told he doesn’t need surgery, just rest.
“There’s nothing that can cure it in the short-term except for time,” he said.
For Cole, who joined the Wings on their final road trip of the regular season to Montreal and Carolina, just being around the guys makes dealing with the shock of not playing a little easier.
“I wanna obviously stay active and stay around the guys,” he said. “The organization and the medical staff, the coaching staff and the players have all been really great to me over the last week. It’s been a pretty difficult pill to swallow and it was tough to stand up here in front of the guys and inform them of the news. I took most of last week and this past weekend I was in Carolina for Easter so I just wanted to let things sink in a bit and come back here and hopefully be a positive influence on the fellas and help out any way that I can.”
In need of a top-six forward at the trade deadline, the Wings made a deal for Cole who is in the final year of his contract. Detroit also received a conditional third-round selection in the 2015 draft from the Dallas Stars in exchange for two young prospects – center Mattias Janmark and defenseman Mattias Backman – and a second-round pick in the June draft.
The draft pick would have been returned to Dallas if Cole played in at least 50 percent of the Wings first- and second-round playoff games this spring, and Detroit reaches the Eastern Conference finals. But since Cole will not play in the postseason the Wings keep the pick.
Cole played in 11 games while producing three goals, three assists and a minus-2 rating.
Drafted in the third round of the 1998 draft by the Hurricanes, Cole has played 13 seasons with five different teams, including Edmonton and Montreal. In that time, he has registered 265 goals and 532 points in 892 career NHL games.