Edmonton Oilers' Recent Autograph Session Reveals True Colors

Salim ValjiCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2009

Erik Cole hasn't had the year any Edmonton Oilers fans predicted. At times he looks fantastic and like someone who can carry the team on his back, whereas at other times he looks like a complete waste of $4 million. But I have all the respect in the world for him, and here's why.

The Oilers held their annual autograph session this past Sunday at West Edmonton Mall and fans came out as early as 7 a.m. for the signing that started at 1 p.m. Even then, some still weren't able to get their favorite player's coveted signature.

I was at the session, and despite arriving three hours early, I still was unable to meet Ales Hemsky and Tom Gilbert.

After the line was cut off, I was annoyed and enraged that on the one day I got to meet my heroes, I still couldn't.

So I "settled" for the next best thing, and hopped into the line for Kyle Brodziak and Erik Cole. By this time it was around 2:10 PM., so I was crossing my fingers that I could get my jersey signed by someone.

I managed to get through the line and see Brodziak and Cole. I talked with them for a couple of seconds, and they signed my white RBK jersey, "To Salim. Best Wishes."

At the time I could have cared less. That day all I wanted was to see Ales Hemsky and Tom Gilbert.

Anyway, after the autograph session had ended, I was walking around the mall, and lo and behold at 3 p.m.—a half hour after the session had ended—there was Cole still signing autographs for the fans.

Cole had no need to stay afterward and sign autographs; it's not as if he'd been an Oiler for very long. Yet he did. He did something that Ethan Moreau, Hemsky, Steve Staios, and other veteran Oilers should have done automatically.

What Cole did was he showed the fans that he cared about them and that he did not want them to go home empty-handed. And he showed that he appreciates all the fans do for him and his colleagues.

The value of goals and assists are one thing; the value of respect is something completely different.

What Cole did is something severely lacking in pro sports. Every athlete should follow Cole's example, yet almost none ever do.

It's funny, thinking about what I said when I got Cole's autograph. I told him that I was going to be a sports writer someday, so he'd better start sucking up to me right now. Turns out he didn't have to.

I have all the respect in the world for Erik Cole, because he has the decency to respect me.