Ian Cole was getting ready for a game with the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 19, when he found out he’d been traded to the Wild.
“Ate a big pregame meal and didn’t get the opportunity to work it off,” the 31-year-old defenseman joked. “It’s part of the business. You’ve got to be flexible and be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. I’m happy to be here and ready to get going.”
Luckily for Cole, he was eligible to play for the Wild right away and expected to be in the lineup on Wednesday night for an 8:30 puck drop at Anaheim. He was penciled in alongside Carson Soucy on the bottoming defensive pairing.
While the NHL has stringent COVID-19 protocols in place, because the Wild and the Avalanche were both in Southern California, a car service allowed Cole to avoid any potential quarantine. He would’ve had to isolate for a week had he flown commercial.
“I was pretty fortunate in that sense,” Cole said. “That’d be a tough situation to get traded to a team and then have to quarantine for a week and not see anybody and not work out and not do anything. … It worked out pretty well.”
Also working out well for Cole, a built-in friendship inside the Wild locker room. He won a couple of Stanley Cups with center Nick Bonino when both were members of the Pittsburgh Penguins. As much as the trade was a shock for Cole, it was equally shocking for Bonino, who remembers getting a text message from Wild captain Jared Spurgeon altering him of the news in October.
“I had no idea what he was talking about,” Bonino said. “It came out of nowhere. I think it’s great for the team, just knowing Coler and what he’ll do for a team. He’s very selfless; he’ll throw himself in front of pucks, he moves the puck well.”
Both players moved around the league following their days with the Penguins and stayed in pretty close contact with each other in the meantime. They both reiterated how happy they were to be reunited with the Wild.
“Except for a few cross checks in the low back the last couple of years when we played him, it seems like he’s still a pretty good guy,” Bonino joked. “I’m sure he’ll be great here. He’s a great guy and I’m happy to have him.”
As far as learning the systems goes, coach Dean Evason tried not to inundate Cole with too much information early on. It’s a balance of teaching him some of the basics while making sure he doesn’t overthink on the ice.
“You know, hockey is hockey at the end of the day, and when the puck is dropped we want him to compete,” Evason said. “We want him to have a concept of what we are doing, and we rely a lot on the group to teach from within. You know, Soucy will be playing with him and his communication is real good, so we expect him to fit in great right from the drop of the puck.”
Asked to give a scouting report on himself, Cole joked, “Not going to displace anyone on the power play.”
Not at all. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman that focuses on playing solid in his own zone first, then gets the puck the other way as quickly as possible. He also takes a lot of pride in playing on the penalty kill.
He’s eager to ingratiate himself to his new team as quickly as possible.
“You just try to be a good teammate first and foremost,” Cole said. “How can I help? Where can I add in? Where can I help the team get better? That’s really it. I’m not wishy-washy on what my role is. I’m going to come in and try to do it to the best of my ability and help the team win hockey games.”
The only issue for Cole at the moment is figuring out how to move his life in the middle of a pandemic.
“Fortunately, I’m a bit of an over-packer, so I probably over packed for this road trip,” Cole said. “I think we end up in Denver in like a week in a half or so. I’ll be able to go back home and pack some stuff up and maybe ship it out. Until then, I’ll make due and hopefully find a good dry cleaners.”