Pro Hockey Experience "Awesome" for Ian Cole
|In just his first professional season, Ian Cole has already made an impact at the AHL and NHL levels. The 21-year-old defenseman made his NHL debut on Nov. 6.|
If there were one word Ian Cole would use to describe his professional hockey experience thus far, he would simply say “Awesome”. It would be an understatement to say the 21-year-old defensemen is enjoying his rookie season with the Peoria Rivermen.
Speaking of his first AHL experience, in which he appeared in nine games for Peoria after completing his junior season at the University of Notre Dame, Cole reflects, “It’s been awesome. I was here last spring, had a good time here. Got to hang out with the guys and learn how professionals do things. And that was awesome.”
Born in Ann Arbor, Mich., Cole started skating when he was only 2 years old. He was very active, participating in various sports including baseball, football and lacrosse. “I was naturally talented at a bunch of different sports,” Cole said. “But hockey was something that I always really loved.”
Cole’s childhood role model was his father. His dad played hockey in a men’s league, and wore the number 14. Since this number was never available for Ian, he decided to double it to pay homage to his dad. He has been wearing the number 28 ever since.
While his dad will always be one of Cole’s top role models, another mentor is former Rivermen David Backes. A second-pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2003, who – like Cole – played three seasons of college hockey (Minnesota State University – Mankato) and is now a permanent fixture for the Blues, Backes has made a great impression on the young Cole.
“A lot of guys on the Blues have been awesome,” Cole said. “David Backes has been a great role model. Seeing him go to the rink and do his job extremely well gives you something to shoot for. He’s a guy who puts up points and at the same time is a force in the locker room. I really respect guys like that.”
In just his rookie season, Cole has already become a key component for the St. Louis Blues. Cole has played seven games with the club, making his NHL debut on Nov. 6 against Boston, and playing a game the next night against the New York Rangers.
“It was good, it was awesome. Playing your first game in Boston, sold out crowd,” Cole said. “Then playing the next night in New York at Madison Square Garden, you can’t ask for anything else.” After being sent down after three games, the Blues recalled the defensemen on Dec. 3.
Early in high school, Cole was offered his first hockey scholarship by Notre Dame. He went on to play 111 games with the program, scoring 65 points, and help the team make its first ever NCAA Men’s Frozen Four appearance.
“It was a great experience,” Cole explained. “The coaches were fantastic. They stayed on me to try, and get better. They taught me what it would take to get to the next level.”
After being drafted 18th overall by the St. Louis Blues in 2007, Cole was named the Blues fifth best prospect in The Hockey News’s 2008 Future Watch Issue. In this issue Jeremy Rutherford wrote, “…right now he’s (Cole) a raw talent who’s relying on brute strength to make plays.”
“At that time I would probably agree with that,” Cole said. “Since then, I’ve played at Notre Dame. My freshman year they put me on the powerplay. They were pretty lenient with me, letting me make some mistakes. Those three years I gained a lot of skill. I have definitely come a long ways since then.”
When asked if he could see himself doing anything but playing hockey, he responded, “Seeing myself sitting behind a desk nine to five? I don’t know if I could do it,” Cole explained. “There is nothing that beats this lifestyle. Getting up, coming to practice, working out, done by one o’clock. It’s the best job in the world, it’s awesome.”
Fortunately, Cole has a bright future that doesn’t involve sitting at a desk. Peoria and St. Louis are both young, and up and coming teams. Cole is at the heart of it. Cole will be fully utilized, and with that will come even more improvement and many more “awesome” experiences.
-By Benjamin Bean