For those of you who are not fans of the NHL, the name Riley Cote may not mean a whole lot. But for us loyal Philadelphia Flyers fans, Riley has become the living, breathing symbol of the blue-collar, hard-nosed Philadelphia sports fan. With 202 penalty minutes in the 2007/2008 season, Cote is no Lady Byng candidate, but his grit, determination and willingness to battle for his team have endeared him to the NHL's toughest fans and earned him his due respect around the league.
Off the ice, Riley is a class act. He never turns down fans for autographs and is very humble, down to earth, and willing to talk to folks about his experiences playing at the pro level. He and his lovely wife, Holly are very involved in charitable causes, especially raising funds to help fight Multiple Sclerosis.
Personally, Riley has been really supportive in giving me some great opportunities to showcase my own hockey artwork. Last season I did some graphics for a fan tee-shirt for his charitable work and another graphic for his cool website, www.rileycote.com. He also autographed one of my pen and ink originals which was then auctioned to help raise money to assist with the medical expenses of a kid battling cancer.
I have always been impressed by his genuine interest in my artwork, multimedia, computers and graphics and I thought it might be a cool twist to interview him for his perspective on the creative aspects of pro sports. So, without further delay, here is the Forum's chat with Flyer's Winger, Riley Cote:
SAF - As a professional athlete is there any particular example of sports imagery, artwork or film footage that is most memorable to you?
RC - I guess the Hockey Night in Canada theme song and intro. I grew up watching it so it is definitely the most memorable.
SAF - How do you feel about how professional athletes are built up and portrayed in the media and is it difficult to live up to this media build up?
RC - I think every athlete has some responsibility in the way the media treats them. (If) you say the wrong thing, the media is all over you. In a drought, the media is all over you. They feed on that stuff. There is definitely pressure, but that's expected at this level of professional sports. If you need the media to kick you in the butt then there is something wrong.
SAF - You were recently featured in a really creatively designed billboard along Interstate 95 (above). How does something like that come together? Were you consulted about it, or did you just see it one day like the rest of us did - driving down I-95?
RC - You know what? I actually got a few phone calls and text messages from people that saw it. I had no idea it was going to be up there!
SAF - What is it like seeing yourself up on a huge billboard like that?
RC - I thought it was very cool seeing myself up on the billboard. That billboard is so Philly. Love it!
SAF - The NHL is full of really awesome graphics and loud multimedia displays during games (for example the big player head-shots shined on the ice during introductions). As a player do you find all this creative multimedia during the games distracting at all?
RC - No, I do not find any of the creative multimedia stuff distracting. In fact I use it as motivation. For me, a big hit or a great fight usually ends up on the "Jumbo-Tron" (scoreboard) so i guess if I see myself up there, I've done at least one thing right that game.
SAF - Last year the NHL re-designed all of the team uniforms - how do you feel about the newly designed uniforms look and function? Are there any improvements you feel could be made?
RC - I really wasn't a huge fan of the new uniforms last year. The style was average but the material they first used was really brutal. They just retained SO much water. It wasn't much past the start of the season that they sent us new jerseys with the same cut but (made of) the old material. (I) just wish they would all go back to the old vintage style of jerseys.
SAF - As one of the toughest fighters in the league, your autograph and collectible status has probably increased dramatically in the eyes of the fans, yet you are still willing to always sign autographs for everyone and are a fan favorite. What is your perspective on autographed sports collectibles and how do you feel if a fan gets you to sign a photo and then turns around and sells it up on e-bay?
RC - My perspective on signing is (that) if I didn't stop and sign because of the (collectible) dealers and sellers that are always around, then I might have missed an opportunity to brighten a kid's day who might really want an autograph. For the most part, the players who don't sign autographs is for that exact reason. They want to sign for the people that really want their autographs, but some people just ruin it for everybody. It's really too bad.
SAF - Growing up as a kid, did you have any favorite sports art or collectibles and if so, what were they? As a pro player do you have any favorite pieces now and if so what?
RC - Growing up I collected hockey cards, that's about it. Still have them all! My favorite piece now is a smaller version of the I-95 billboard that I have in a frame. Just a cool picture. And, I do have to say the "Rockin Riles" cartoon. My two favorites.