Flyers' Cote tattooing friends and foes alike

Jeff Gemma's Flyers logo.
Jeff Gemma's Flyers logo.
Posted: October 20, 2009

Riley Cote wasn't looking for a new hobby this summer - just something to pass the time during what seemed like an interminable offseason.

So when his favorite tattoo artist, Jeff Gemma, asked the Flyers' enforcer to personally tattoo a Flyers logo on his ankle, Cote was stunned. He didn't know what to say to something so . . . permanent.

"I had wanted to do it years ago,'' Gemma said yesterday, shortly after adding more ink to Cote's arm. "I had grown up in Massachusetts and was a big-time Bruins fan but lost touch with the game. I was tattooing in Jersey [at the appropriately named Jersey Devil] and a bunch of the Phantoms came in and Riley was one of them.

"I became a big hockey fan and to show my loyalty to the Flyers, I thought it'd be cool. So I decided to hit him up this summer when he came to visit me.''

And Cote agreed.

Cote traveled to Gemma's new shop, Secret Society Tattooing in Worcester, Mass., shortly before training camp to put a new spin on one of the NHL's most tradition-rich logos.

He realized as soon as he began to work on Gemma that there are no test runs or mulligans in the tattoo world.

"I was really nervous," Cote recalled last week. "I had never done anything like that before. I just didn't want to screw up."

Cote produced and edited a video of the experience, filled with a lot of laughs, and put it on YouTube (tinyurl.com/CoteTattoo). He wasn't too thrilled with the results.

"When you're far away, it doesn't look that bad," Cote said in the video. "But then you get up close and you're like, 'Whoa.' It's rugged-looking."

But Gemma was prepared for Cote's amateur skills. He knew it was all in good fun.

"If it came out rough and ragged, I thought it would be suitable, coming from him,'' Gemma said.

After all, Cote is a hockey player - not an artist. He says he never has been too artistically inclined but gained a greater appreciation for the skills involved with tattooing through the experience.

"You're holding the gun so tight, you don't want to let it slip," Cote said. "When you trace over a line, it makes it dark - but you don't want to retrace over it again because then it makes it too thick."

"It looks easy when someone knows the design and the equipment,'' Gemma said. "There is a definite science for doing it. I'm not sure people have a full appreciation for the art that goes behind it."

The logo on Gemma's ankle might not have been to Cote's liking - few can say they always get it right on the first shot - but Cote's fame attracted hundreds of comments and e-mails from fans wanting him to do the same on them.

Just a few weeks after branding Gemma, Cote tattooed another Flyers logo on a fan named Katie live on WMMR's Preston and Steve Morning Show.

"I was still nervous," Cote said. "But it looks like a Flyers logo, so that's all that counts."

Since that segment on WMMR, the requests and fan mail begging for tattoos has tripled. While he can't do them all, Cote will do at least one more to raise money for charity.

His favorite cause is the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. He presented the MSAA with a check for $27,000 on Oct. 1 in honor of his sister, Jamie, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2000.

"I'd like to do an auction next year for me to tattoo someone," Cote said. "Hopefully I will be better and we can raise money for a good cause."

Slap shots

The Flyers announced yesterday that Thursday will be Dollar Dog Night at the Wachovia Center when they take on the Boston Bruins. Last year, the Flyers sold 20,000 hot dogs on Dollar Dog Night, more than one per person . . . Arron Asham skated on a line with Simon Gagne and Mike Richards yesterday, leaving Claude Giroux between James van Riemsdyk and Ian Laperriere . . . Blair Betts, still reeling from a dislocated right shoulder, does not appear to be ready to return for Thursday's game.

For more news and analysis, read

Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.

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