Today is an important date for a couple of reasons.
One is that it's my friend Amanda's birthday. I've written about her numerous times in the past. Sadly, we're not close anymore, and I haven't even seen her in more than a year, but I still wish her a happy birthday.
The other thing gives me an opportunity to answer a question that was asked of me a few weeks ago. Today marks the second anniversary of Erik Cole's worst day ever. In a game with the Penguins on March 4, 2006, Cole had two goals in the first two periods. The Canes were holding on to a 6-4 lead in the early stages of the third period when Cole was checked from behind by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. After the horrifying head-first collision with the boards and a few moments of laying motionless, Cole left the ice under his own power with what appeared to be a left arm injury. It looked like a left arm injury because he had a fracture of his c-5 vertebra. You can look up all the technical reasons for that, but that kind of injury causes those types of reactions.
Anyway, Cole was out of the game and was out for the balance of the season and the majority of the playoffs. His dramatic return to the Canes in game 6 of the SCF didn't help that night, but he was one of the best players on the ice in game 7.
Orpik was also out for the game and was handed a two game suspension for reckless play.
Canes fans, myself included, were outraged that Orpik didn't visit Cole in the hospital. He didn't call, or even attempt to until months later. He showed little remorse for the end result of his actions. He defended the hit as clean. While he openly said that it was unfortunate that Cole was hurt, that was as far as he went. He became public enemy #1. The two teams didn't meet again that season.
In the 2006-07 season, Orpik was hurt in the first game between the Canes and Penguins. He was lustily booed both times the Penguins visited Raleigh, but nothing ever happened between Orpik and Cole.
This season, there were a couple of near altercations in the second game, but nothing happened. Finally, in the third game, on February 2, Cole and Orpik fought. Orpik wasn't really into it, but the word on the street is that the two talked about it and Orpik agreed that he owed Cole a fight. Cole isn't much of a fighter, but he had to have that one to finally bring something resembling closure to the whole thing. At that point, I think Cole was satisfied. I was satisfied. It was over.
However, when the Penguins returned to Raleigh on Valentine's Day, a lot of fans wouldn't let go. They continued to boo Orpik every time he touched the puck. I said on this blog and in the arena that night that it people needed to move on.
Right after the boarding incident, I was furious. I went on and on for days about how horrible Orpik was. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, I knew that he never intended to hurt Cole like that. He intended to hit him hard. He was reckless, but he didn't want any of that. He could have carried himself a little better in the aftermath, but he's not a monster.
I was one of loudest boobirds in those games last season, but I was actually done with it by the end of that season. And I was definitely done with it when Orpik gave Cole that fight. Erik Cole is done with it. Why shouldn't I be? Why shouldn't the rest of the Caniac nation be?
3 years ago