SUN Hockey Pool

Cole joining the good guys

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

He got a taste of Edmonton during the 2006 Stanley Cup final - albeit as one of the bad guys.

Now Erik Cole is getting an opportunity to play for the home team.

Yesterday the Edmonton Oilers acquired the six-foot-two, 205-pound winger from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defenceman Joni Pitkanen.

"I'm excited about coming to Edmonton. Canadian hockey markets are second to none," Cole said in a conference call yesterday. "Obviously I played in a market that is not a traditional hockey market, college sports are the primary thing there. But during the Cup final, it was impressive to see how things were here and it was more impressive to see the atmosphere at Rexall Place."

Cole only played in two games of that final having suffered a career-threatening neck injury during the season.

He was shoved from behind by Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins and fell into the boards head first, fracturing a vertebra in his neck 60 games into the season.

It was a minor miracle he was able to return for the last two games of the Stanley Cup final.

"To sit up top, along with the other guys that weren't dressed for Games 3 and 4 and to watch that atmosphere from above, it was definitely a different perspective," Cole said. "When you're playing and are inside that glass, you're a bit more sheltered. I don't think the guys realize how intense it really was and what kind of support the fans gave, not just in the area, but all over the city, really.

"Every time we went out for dinner you could just see the fan support everywhere. I'm excited to just have an opportunity to join this franchise. Obviously it's a very historic franchise and one that I'm going to be very proud to put on that sweater."

Prior to the injury, Cole, 29, was having a career-season with 30 goals and 29 assists.

Despite repeated denials from the Canes that he would play in the Stanley Cup final, Cole was sprung on the Oilers in Game 6 at Rexall Place with Carolina a win away from clinching the series.

However, the Oilers went on to win the game 4-0 and Ethan Moreau welcomed Cole back with a crunching hit along the boards, which had even Oiler fans holding their breaths.

"At the time, you're playing for the Stanley Cup and that's something that we've all dreamed of since we were little kids," Cole said. "And anything that was done or said back then, when you're competing for a prize like that, you have to expect that guys are going to do whatever it takes to try and get it done."

Since then the Hurricanes have not gone back to the NHL playoffs. Neither have the Oilers.

Last season, Cole had a sub-par year by his standards, scoring 22 goals and adding 29 assists in 73 games, finishing third in team scoring.

He's fully recovered from his injury and is looking forward to a fresh start.

"The first year after the injury it was a lot tougher than I figured it would be," Cole said. "Last year started the same way, but then toward the middle of the season and early December things were great. My range of motion is not better than it was before the surgery, but it is back to par."

After being drafted in the third round of the 1998 draft, the Oswego, New York, native played six seasons with Carolina, scoring 129 goals in 418 regular season games and adding six goals and nine points in 25 playoff tilts.

"I wasn't looking for a trade or seeking a trade," he said. "But if you look at our roster and the way things were going and what our strengths and weaknesses are you knew something had to give.

"Unfortunately I was the one that had to go. But when you look at it in that sense, I've seen a lot of good friends that I won the Stanley Cup with leave our organization."


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