Jay Courtney talked to former Panthers centre, Brandin Cote.
At the beginning of the 2005/06 ice hockey season things were looking optimistic for the Nottingham Panthers. The club had announced Paul Adey’s replacement would be former Panthers coach Mike Blaisdell, David Clarke had just had his ‘break out season’ and they had recruited one Dan Tessier who was averaging 1.4 points a game (however in mid November Dan left the Panthers for a team in Switzerland). On the downside, Injuries to Dion Darling, David Clarke and Brad Patterson all took a toll on the team who finished a disappointing fourth in the EIHL and failed to qualify for the play-off finals.
The hit of the year came in late August when Nottingham announced the signing of Brandin Cote from the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL (Chicago Blackhawks farm team). Brandin was a player who wore his heart of his sleeve and was seen giving 100% each and every shift. Since leaving Nottingham at the end of 2006 he has played his trade in the ECHL, AHL, Italy and Germany.
I’ve been fortunate enough to get an interview with this former fan favourite, to talk about life in hockey.
JAY – My first question is when did you realise you were going to be a pro hockey player?
BRANDIN – I had the dream of being a pro hockey player when I started playing hockey at age 5. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of success as a young player growing up in Saskatchewan and went on to play 5 successful years in the WHL for the Spokane Chiefs, which helped me reach one of my goals: Signing an NHL contract with the Chicago Blackhawks at the end of my junior career.
JAY – after playing in the WHL, You went straight into the AHL did you expect that?
BRANDIN – My goal after junior was to sign with an NHL team and play professional hockey. I had a good training camp in Chicago and played well in Norfolk when I went down there. I didn’t really know what to expect being my first year pro, but I was fortunate enough to play well and earn a job in the AHL.
JAY – After three seasons in the AHL, why did you choose to play in the United Kingdom?
BRANDIN – Playing in the AHL, I was used as more of a checking/ defensive center. While I took pride in shutting down the other teams top lines, killing penalties etc… I felt I wasn’t developing or utilizing the offensive side of my game very much. Mike Blaisdell contacted me about the prospect of playing in Nottingham where I would be counted on to contribute in all areas of the game. Playing in a different country was always something I wanted to try and I felt the Panthers presented me with a great opportunity to experience something new and also play a more prominent role on the ice.
JAY – You were one of the hits of the season, many fans thought the season was a disappointment what was your take on the season?
BRANDIN – As much as I enjoyed my time in Nottingham and appreciated all of the support of the fans and the organization, I shared the same disappointment that the fans and my teammates felt. We had a very good team and a great bunch of guys. We had a lot of fun but it was disappointing that we weren’t able to take our game to the next level and win a trophy. We all felt that we underachieved that season. In saying that, we had some key losses and injuries. We lost Dan Tessier early in the year and then we had some key injuries to David Clarke, Dion Darling and myself at different points in the season.
JAY – When I saw you ice you had a no nonsense approach to the game, has that changed at all?
BRANDIN – It’s interesting because I have always played with a chip on my shoulder and I have never been afraid to stand up for a teammate or myself when needed. In saying that, I would never really consider myself to be a great fighter because up until that season I never really fought much at all. I don’t think I will ever change the way I play as far as the intensity level goes but I will say that I have maybe only got into 1 or 2 fights since my time in Nottingham!
JAY – after Nottingham, you signed for the Texas Wildcatters, where you had a ‘breakout’ season how pleasing was that for you?
BRANDIN – I played on a really good team in Texas with a lot of really good young players and we had an excellent coach in Malcolm Cameron. I was fortunate enough to be named the captain and was given the opportunity to be the leader of the team on and off the ice. I played in all situations and was lucky enough to stay healthy all season. I was able to take advantage of the offensive opportunities that I got and put up some respectable offensive numbers. Unfortunately, we came up against a strong Florida Everblades team in the playoffs and failed to reach our goal of winning the Kelly Cup.
JAY – Many players have compared the Elite League to the ECHL, what is your opinion on the issue?
BRANDIN – To me it is really tough to compare one league to another, especially comparing North American Leagues to European leagues because there is such a contrast in the styles of play. In saying that, I agree that most of the imports in the Elite league are of ECHL/ AHL calibre. In my opinion though, I still believe the ECHL to be a little higher level now because of the fact that it is now used as the second tier developmental league to the NHL. NHL teams now send many of their young prospects to the ECHL for a year of development before giving them a shot at the AHL. This helped the league become more respectable and competitive.
JAY -Also I see in 2006/2007 you got the call to play in the AHL again, were you expecting that again in your career?
BRANDIN – It was nice to be able to play in the AHL again. It is a very good league with a lot of good players that are able to step into the NHL at any given time when called upon. I played 5 games on that call up and they wanted me to stay for the rest of the season. My role however was limited. They were getting some guys back from Chicago so there was no guarantee that I would play in all of the remaining games in Norfolk. At that point I felt it would be more beneficial for me to go back down to Texas and help my team with our playoff drive.
JAY – According to Hockey Database you’ve been playing in Germany and Italy, can you describe those experiences?
BRANDIN – The year I played in Italy, I played in Cortina. It was definitely an interesting experience. The level of hockey in Italy is fairly comparable to the level in England. It is very wide open and not very physical as compared to England. I enjoyed the Italian cuisine and wine and also, the opportunity to travel and see the country. It found it tough to adjust to the laid back lifestyle, language barriers and the remoteness of the town. We also had a good team that underachieved which made for a long year for me in Italy. Overall though, it was a great life experience!
This past year I played in Bremerhaven, Germany. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here. The people here are hockey crazy and the organization treated me well. The lifestyle in Germany, although different was very easy to adjust to. Many people speak English which made it much easier. The hockey is very good and of course I enjoyed travelling and sampling all of the great German Beers!
JAY – Is there a difference between European hockey and North American Hockey?
BRANDIN – There are many differences but I would say there are three major differences that really stand out to me:
1) North American hockey to me is much more physical and much more based on team structure and systems. In Europe, the games are much more wide open and more focused on individual skill.
2) The other major difference to me is the quality of officiating. As a player, I am not one to take the side of the referee no matter where I am playing but I am comfortable in saying that the officiating in North America is much more consistent. You know what they are calling most of the time and their reasons for the call. In Europe, I hate to say it, but it’s anyone’s guess!
3) The fans in North America are much more reserved. Of course they get loud and cheer for their team but after a while they calm down. In Europe, the fans are CRAZY!! And I mean that in a good way! There is no better feeling for a player than to come out to the ice and hear the fans chant and cheer and sing for the entire game the way they do in Europe. I think it’s great!
JAY – If you had the choice of England, Italy or Germany where would you like to settle down?
BRANDIN – As I described earlier, I enjoyed the experiences of all the different places that I played. If I had to choose between the three it would be a close call between England and Germany. The lifestyles are much more comfortable to me in England and Germany than in Italy. The fan support that I received in Nottingham was really great and I was treated very well by the organization! As a hockey player, I always strive to play at the highest level possible while also being able to make a decent living. For those two reasons, I would give Germany the slight edge but always will remember my time in Nottingham because I thoroughly enjoyed it there!
JAY – In five words how you would describe Brandin Cote?
BRANDIN – 5 words that come to mind are: Hard Working, Honest, Committed, Leader, Fun
Those are 5 good words…ha ha..You didn’t ask for 5 bad words, so I’ll leave it at that!
JAY – Do you have any ideas where you will be playing next season?
BRANDIN – Unfortunately, my future in hockey is up in the air at this point. I just recently underwent reconstructive surgery on my left knee stemming from several injuries in the past as well as another one this past season. It was necessary, in order to regain full strength and stability for the future. I am facing at least 9 months of rehab before I can consider playing professional hockey again. I am planning on taking next season off while I rehab my knee and will take a year of schooling back home. I will re- evaluate my situation once my knee is better. I am hopeful that I will be able to play again and if not, I plan to get into coaching or teaching sometime in the future.
JAY – Last question, would you ever return to the UK to play your trade again?
BRANDIN – I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the UK and have always said that I would never rule out a return to the UK at some point in the future. My main concern right now is getting my knee healthy again and I will make a decision regarding my playing future when the time is right!
The Cat’s Whiskers would like to thank Brandin Cote for taking the time out to talk to us, and Jay Courtney for conducting the interview.