By IVAN DANIELEQICZ
Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune
It’s been a special preseason for a Grande Prairie Storm veteran.
For Storm forward Taylor Cote, the 2012-13 Alberta Junior Hockey League exhibition matches have been the first game action he has seen in nearly 10 months.
Last season on Sept. 9, Cote suffered a concussion during a game against the Sherwood Park Crusaders. After missing nearly a month he returned to the line up, but on Oct. 12, during a game against the Spruce Grove Saints, Cote’s season was ended when his concussion was re-aggravated in a scrum.
“It was definitely a long year last season,” Cote said.
“My five games were all done by the middle of October, so I had a lot of time watching and I guess it gave me a chance to find love for the game again. and I really enjoy playing. I was in the process of making a comeback right as we were eliminated last season (and) as soon as we were eliminated I worked with a good trainer in town – Brett Shillington at VO2 Max – and then I moved to Edmonton and trained with another great trainer and I just got a lot stronger. I lost a lot last season just sitting out; I wasn’t doing anything and I had to get a lot of my strength back.
“I’m still not where I want to be, but it’s definitely coming. (This has) been my first game situations in nearly 12 months.”
A concussion and a missed season is a lot for an 18-year-old to go through, but he’s been pushing himself to move past the injury. Watching Cote on the ice, it’s clear he’s getting back to playing his style of gritty, in-your-face hockey, but with an added intelligence to the way we plays.
“It’s a tough injury, you never know when you are fully healed,” Cote said. “Even now I’m symptom free, but I mean any hit and I could be back where I started. It’s tough because I’m a little bit of a reckless player so I have to play a little bit cautiously, and (Storm head coach) Blaine (Bablitz) has had a few talks with me already and it’s hard.”
He added: “I’m going to have to definitely know my limits. I’m going to play tough, but I’m an older guy now so I have to find ways to contribute on the score sheet, but I’m never going to back down.”
The 2012-13 season is Cote’s fourth season with the Storm, playing a combined 58 games over those years while scoring two goals, adding six assists and 146 penalty minutes.
With Cote’s on ice-experience and presence in the dressing room, Bablitz said he’s thrilled to have Cote back in the fold.
“I feel he’s going to be a huge part of our hockey team for the next two years,” Bablitz said. “He’s a heart-and-soul kid from the Peace Country that has great leadership qualities and is very mature, so he’ll be our go to guy in the leadership department.
“It was a huge blow to our team when he got hurt last year and was only able to play five games, and between losing him and Josh Juell we lost the foundation to our whole third line.
“Getting Taylor back is probably one of the most key things to our hockey team.”
After getting knocked out in October, Cote was able to resume work-outs again in March and he was kept off the ice until mid-June, when he participated in his first full practice.
With an unpredictable recovery schedule when dealing with post- concussion syndrome, Cote said he received a lot of support from the Storm organization, who stuck by him throughout the rehabilitation process.
“It mean’s a lot,” said Cote, who hails from Falher.
“There were always guys down at the rink, like our governor Ray Mildenberger and or our president Darrell Radbourne, they were always, ‘How are you feeling?’ and trying to keep you up in spirits.
“It’s a serious injury, so there was never a point where they were trying to force me to come back. They were always trying to make sure I was healthy because you only have one brain.”
Cote’s hockey sense and his leadership will play a big part of his role in the upcoming Storm season. With the graduation of last season’s captain Mitch Neumeier, Bablitz said Cote will be relied upon as part of the captaincy core – though he didn’t say which letter Cote would be donning this season.
“We’ll be making an official announcement at some point and the letter hasn’t been sewn on his jersey yet, but that would be the direction we are heading,” Bablitz said