How often have we heard the National Hockey League front office and Gary Bettman talk about getting rid of shots to the head in the game?
How many times have we heard the words "shots to the head" or "cheap shots," followed by the name Matt Cooke? Far too often.
Cooke struck again Sunday afternoon against New York Rangers rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Early in the third period, Cooke skated across ice and decked McDonagh with an elbow, leaving him dazed and woozy.
Cooke was rightfully given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. The Rangers eventually scored two goals in 11 seconds (on top of a double minor penalty for high sticking by Matt Niskanen), and the game was over for the Penguins as they fell 5-2.
Enough is enough. Cooke is a danger to everyone he plays against on every shift of the game. He has essentially ended Boston Bruins center Marc Savard's career. Following last season's blindside hit to Savard's head, the center has been struggling to regain his health and could possibly hang up the skates for good.
Just over a month ago, Cooke nailed Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin from behind and was handed a two-game suspension for that.
Cooke has shown that he has no respect for those on the ice and should be stopped before he really crosses the line into Todd Bertuzzi territory and legal action gets involved.
After last month's melee on Long Island involving the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders, former NHL great and Penguins owner Mario Lemeuix stated how disgusted he was with the current state of the game and whether he still wanted to be apart of it.
Of course, the name that was on everyone's lips was none other than Cooke's.
Here is a golden opportunity for not only the league to really try and end this, but also for Mario to step in and back the claims he set forth last month. End this guy for the season. He brings little-to-nothing for an already exciting, talented Penguins team that has an opportunity to go deep into the playoffs even without the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evegni Malkin.
If Mario releases a statement against Cooke's actions Sunday, no one will cry "hypocrite" ever again.
Head coach Dan Byslma said after the game: “I don’t think you can talk about eliminating head shots from the game, as we have, as an organization, and not expect that to be examined, as what looks to be contact right to the head on the play,” Bylsma said.
“The league will look at that and treat it as such. We took a five-minute major in a situation where it was a tight game. Anytime you take a penalty like that, you’re putting your team down for five minutes, you’re putting your team in a tough spot. It’s an undisciplined play.
"Up to that point, I thought the game was played pretty well by our team. We were doing a lot of good things and wanted to continue to play the way we were. That put us in a situation where it changed the game.”
Class act by Byslma. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Cooke, and all the other headhunters in the NHL, has to be stopped. Slapping Cooke with another two- or three-game suspension is a giant leap back on the war against headshots.
There's no place for them in the game, and there's no place for Cooke either.
For NHL news and tweets, follow me on Twitter @matt_calamia