April 01, 2016

Ray Cote

Ray Cote is the perfect example of why all the long shot minor leaguers out there should never give up on their dream. And they should always be ready.

In April of 1983 Cote headed home to Pincher Creek, Alberta. The former Calgary Wranglers junior star had just completed his second season of pro hockey, posting an impressive 91 point season in his first season in the American Hockey League.

Cote was never drafted out of junior, but he did sign with the Edmonton Oilers organization in 1981. With their Moncton farm affiliate done for the year, the Oilers called up a few prospects to practice with the Oilers and watch from the press box as Gretzky and the gang advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup final against the New York Islanders.

Cote was not one of those select few, as he was not one of their top prospects. He headed home where he had a job lined up doing handy man work at the local golf course.

Then fate intervened.

Cote was not only called up by the Oilers, but he was inserted into the lineup. They needed a handy man of their own. Suddenly this second year pro who had never played a single game in the NHL is thrown into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And he excelled.

Playing on a line with Pat Hughes and Dave Hunter, Cote was inserted into the series against Chicago. The new trio were asked to be the Oilers shutdown unit, playing against the Hawks fantastic line of Denis Savard, Al Secord and Steve Larmer. The line was very effective right from the start.

Glen Sather kept the line together for much of the playoffs. Cote ended up playing 14 games that spring, even scoring three goals and five points.

Though the Oilers bowed to the Islanders in the Stanley Cup final, the spring of 1983 was certainly the highlight of Ray Cote's career. But it did come at cost. The golf course had to hired someone else in his absence, so when Cote finally did go home, he was unemployed. And, of course, NHL players do not get paid during the playoffs.

Cote remained with the Oilers organization for a couple more seasons, but only would play in a total of 15 more regular season games and no more in the playoffs. Mark Messier was moved to the middle of the ice and Wayne Gretzky seemingly never left the ice, so there was not much room for centers in Edmonton at the time.

In the summer of 1985 Cote decided to head to Europe for a lengthy international career including stops in Sweden, Austria and Germany.

Cote returned home to Calgary to become a real estate agent. Imagine that - a former Edmonton Oilers player selling and buying homes for unsuspecting Flames fans!

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