NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell issued a statement today saying:
“Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position. This isn't the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response."
Campbell was referring to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke’s suspension for his dangerous hit on New York Rangers forward Ryan McDonagh for which Cooke will be suspended for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What it amounts to is a suspension that will last at least 14 games (10 regular season, four or more playoff games).
This latest suspension marks the second time Cooke has faced disciplinary action this season and the fifth time of his career that Cooke has found himself in trouble with the NHL.
Known as a tenacious, sometimes agitating forward, Cooke has had a hard time separating his tough play from dangerous hits, including the hit heard around the world when Cooke almost decapitated Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard last season with a dangerous blindside hit.
That hit led to the NHL’s adding rule 48 which made a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact illegal punishable by supplementary discipline from the NHL.
Needless to say many NHL players and general managers were glad to see Cooke suspended. Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero had no issue with the suspension, even going so far as to call his player out for his inappropriate/dangerous actions:
"The suspension is warranted because that's exactly the kind of hit we're trying to get out of the game. Head shots have no place in hockey. We've told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message."
It will be interesting to see if former NHL great and current co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins will chime in with any comments.
Lemieux first spoke out about the increase in violence in the NHL several weeks ago, stating that if the NHL didn’t do a better job of “protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players” he (Lemieux) would be forced to re-examine whether or not he wanted to be a part of today’s NHL.
Lemieux further attacked the NHL a few weeks later after Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara appeared to have intentionally checked Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty into a stanchion back on March 8th.
Lemieux was so enraged with the NHL’s refusal to discipline Chara that he took it upon himself to write NHL commissioner Gary Bettman a passionate letter which, amongst other things, suggested that NHL teams and perhaps even coaches should be fined for their players’ questionable, undisciplined actions.
While no statement has been made by Lemieux yet, it would appear as if Penguins general manager Ray Shero’s words probably sum up what Lemieux is thinking.
According to an ESPN report, Lemieux’s plan would see NHL teams fined as much as $1 million depending on the player’s suspension. Here is a look at the breakdown:
• 1-2 games—$50,000 fine to team
• 3-4 games—$100,000 fine to team
• 5-8 games—$250,000 fine to team
• 9-10 games—$500,000 fine to team
• 11-15 games—$750,000 fine to team
• More than 15 games—$1 million fine to team
Lemieux argues such a rule would ultimately make clubs more responsible for the acts of their players and may force NHL to cut players that continually find themselves in trouble with the NHL.
Just imagine if Lemieux’s idea had been adopted by the NHL at the beginning of the season?
Prior to today’s suspension, Cooke had been suspended by the NHL for four games on February 9th. Add that to his latest 10 or more game suspension and the Penguins may have been looking at upwards of $850,000 in fines, all because Cooke has to play like an idiot out on the ice.
With all the hoopla over the Chara hit, the constant media attention thrust upon headshots and given Cooke’s history, you’d think he would steer far away from any sort of questionable contact with an opponent.
The reality is Cooke looks to be the type of player that never learns no matter what the punishment is. Hopefully he will use his ten game suspension to reflect on his actions, turn over a new leaf and come back as a useful, safe player.
Sadly, many in NHL circles see Cooke as an addict, a player that cannot resist taking the big hit, no matter what the consequences are to his unsuspecting opponent.
While we all admire Cooke’s moxie and determination on most nights, his indiscretions and dangerous behavior have many NHL fans wondering if Cooke isn’t exactly the type of player the NHL should turn its back on.
If Cooke’s behavior does persist one has to think that he may face a life-time ban from the NHL or find his contract bought out by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Facts are facts, and right now the facts are telling us all that Cooke needs to take a serious look in the mirror, assess his future as an NHL player and make a choice—play safe or get lost.
Cooke is a dangerous (borderline psycho) hockey player that, in the opinion of some, may need help in the form of therapy in order to ever have a chance of stopping his irresponsible behavior.
One thing is for certain, nobody is happy with Cooke’s latest actions, not his peers, not his general manager, not the NHL and certainly not his owners.
Check out my website at www.theslapshot.com for more NHL news.
Until next time.
***quotes were taken via NHL.com***
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