Postcard: The pride of Oswego

Oswego's East Park, this May

OSWEGO, N.Y. – When Erik Cole left Oswego to embark on a collegiate hockey career
he had no way of knowing that he would become the city's most popular resident.

His six-year sojourn through Des Moines, Potsdam, Cincinnati and
Raleigh came full-circle over the summer when the former high-scoring wing for Oswego High School and Clarkson returned to his hometown.

In 2001-02, the NHL rookie became an integral part of the Carolina Hurricanes' effective second line, with Rod Brind’Amour (Michigan State) and Bates Battaglia (Lake Superior). But even as the season progressed, he remained anonymous within the “Triangle” region of Raleigh-Durham.

That wasn’t the case in Oswego, as his continued success made the Hurricanes a favorite team among the locals.

It was apparent in the Hurricanes sweaters, baseball caps, and T-shirts that suddenly appeared at youth hockey events in town.

Further evidence came in mid-December, when the ‘Canes visited Buffalo and more than 200 well-wishers made the two-and-a-half hour drive from Oswego to HSBC Arena to see the hometown boy play in the show.

Cole’s popularity reached even greater heights during Carolina’s playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals, where he and his linemates earned the “BBC Line” moniker and Oswego became Cup Crazy. Even non-hockey fans began tuning in to the telecasts. Hurricanes flags hung from street lights and a large banner was prominently displayed in a city park for traffic passing on the city’s major thoroughfare.

Cole said he had heard through family and friends that his NHL success was a pretty big deal on the homefront, but he wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming reception he received when he returned to Oswego.

Cole was asked to serve as a honorary marshal of the annual Harborfest Children’s Parade, a staple of the town’s summer festival.

A majority of the crowd bucked the parade’s Celtic theme and instead made it a celebration of ‘Canes hockey by wearing jerseys and T-shirts with the Carolina logo.

“It was just like my parents and friends were telling me during the year. People were coming up and telling me that they had never seen a hockey game before,” Cole told The Palladium-Times newspaper.

Hundreds of autographs and handshakes later, Cole escaped the fan frenzy by once again leaving Oswego and heading north toward Potsdam.

He relaxed at his summer home in northern New York with the knowledge that he’s had a huge impact on his quiet hometown.

– Joe Gladziszewski

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