Erik Cole still has his house in the area, still considers Raleigh home and plans to retire here when his hockey career ends. But a lot has changed for him in the past year.
He has a new team, the Montreal Canadiens. He has financial security. Still, things could have been different.
Over Thanksgiving last year, Cole was hoping to stay a Hurricane. He had a big role on teams that reached the Stanley Cup final in 2002 and then won the Cup in 2006, and he was hoping to receive some sign from Canes management that there was serious interest in re-signing him after last season.
Cole said his agent, Steve Bartlett, met with general manager Jim Rutherford in Boston when the Canes faced the Bruins after Thanksgiving, but did not receive any strong assurances about a new contract.
"I wanted to get a feel for what their plan was for me," Cole said. "That wasn't a great response. C'est la vie."
And had there been a better response?
"I think as the season wore on, I think they were a little more open to the fact of re-signing me," Cole said. "When it came time to have those discussions there wasn't a tremendous amount of dialogue, based on the first conversation they had had. My agent from that point didn't feel like it was something to call back on. It's all part of the process, I guess."
Cole, an unrestricted free agent, took the best contract offer, which came from the Canadiens: four years, $18 million.
"Things happen for a reason," Cole said. "I feel like I'm in a real good place."
After a slow start this season, Cole has six goals and six assists in 21 games. But he has three goals and four assists in the last six games and ranks seventh in the NHL in hits with 58.
"There are parts of the business you just can't control," Cole said. "But no matter who you're playing for, or where you're playing, you've got to come to work every day and work hard."
By the way, Cole said he studied French for five years. He said he's not fluent, but can understand conversations going on around him.
"I don't tell everybody that because you can sit and just be a fly on the wall," he said, smiling.
Cole had a number of players over to his house Tuesday night, and some friends from the area. There was a little time to relax.
"When you come to a place where you spent so much time, you want to see as many people as you can that have been good, good friends for a long time," Cole said. "It was good. Good food, we were able to throw some games on TV and guys were able to lounge around."
For Cole, this Thanksgiving will be different.
"For the first time in my career my kids are going to spend Thanksgiving with some family -- back home, that is," he said.