Forecasters predict dandruff accumulations of 6-10 inches across the Delaware Valley as head scratching over Riley Cote's retirement begins.
As reported by multiple sources [Flyers Twitter] [Puck Daddy] [BSH] [Philabright], the Philadelphia Flyers enforcer announced his retirement from professional hockey today at the age of 28, transitioning from a player to an assistant coach with the club's AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms.
Playing just 15 games with the Flyers during the 2009-10 NHL season, Philadelphia's off-season free agency acquisition of enforcer Jodie Shelley all but assured Cote was destined for the Phantoms in 2010-11.
Much of the surprise over today's retirement news is that Cote will arrive in upstate New York as an assistant coach, and not a player.
Personally, I think Cote would be crazy not to retire.
As a former NHL enforcer with some minor star power, it's likely Cote would find himself one of the most popular dance partners in the AHL amongst any kid with balled up fists and a dream of making it to the NHL some day.
That's significant when you take two things into account:
There were 1,423 fighting majors in the NHL in 2009-10.
By contrast, there were 2,182 fighting majors in the AHL during the 2009-10 season, which is an increase of thirty-two percent.
In the NHL, the Anaheim Ducks led all teams with 78 fighting majors in 2009-10.
That total would put the Ducks at no. 15 in the AHL last season.
Keeping in mind there is one less team (29) in the American Hockey League, and that AHL teams play two less games each season (80 games) than NHL teams (82 games), it's safe to assume fighting is even more prevalent at the AHL level than indicated by that number.
So what awaits Cote as an AHL player is a thirty-two percent increased likelihood of fighting; likely more considering his history as an established NHL enforcer.
Such an increase carries a thirty-two percent increased likelihood of concussions, broken orbital bones, smashed teeth, and whatever other injuries come with fighting for a living.
Cote's NHL contract expires after the 2010-11 season. It's difficult to imagine that any salary negotiated in his next contract, in all likelihood an AHL contract, would be anything other than a greatly reduced figure.
So what's the benefit to Cote as an AHL player, other than to dream of a return to the NHL someday, if at all?
More fighting? More bumps, bruises, cuts, broken bones and teeth?
Sacrificing your body for less money and a professional hockey career track moving in reverse?
Cote's decision to leave the NHL as a player to enter the ranks of coaching makes a lot more sense than chasing a dream that is likely over, and paying the price in blood every night he chases that dream thereafter.
Self preservation; the acknowledgement that he's probably come as far as he ever will as a professional player. Who knows what ultimately brought Riley Cote to the decision to retire.
All I know is, for me, there was nothing surprising about Cote's decision to retire today.
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