Pittsburgh Penguins: Matt Cooke Finally Has Justice Served

Tonight's Healthy ScratchesCorrespondent IApril 11, 2010

ATLANTA - APRIL 10:  Jordan Leopold #4, Jordan Staal #11 and Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins watch as a trainer tends to Matt Cooke #24 after he was injured during a fight with Evander Kane #9 (not pictured) of the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on April 10, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Keeping in mind that although sports are entertainment for the masses, for the athletes, it's their jobs. It's the way they provide for their families and make a living. With that being said, you never want so see an athlete in any sport get hurt to where they can't make a living—except in this situation, maybe.

I think I speak for the majority of hockey fans and even some players when I say: Matt Cooke, payback's a ——!

About two minutes into the second period of Atlanta's 1-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night, Cooke barked up the wrong tree.

Former Heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield might have been celebrating an eighth-round knockout victory in Vegas Saturday night, but it was a different Evander that was making news in the hockey world with a knockout of his own.

Last summer's fourth overall draft pick, Evander Kane, KO'd Cooke with a thunderous right hook that would have made Holyfield proud.

Somewhere, Marc Savard is smiling.

Kane, who was being targeted by the Penguins all night after delivering a couple of hard, CLEAN checks to Sidney Crosby earlier in the game, had enough with Cooke's antics.

Leading up to the one-punch fight, Cooke elbowed Kane along the boards and challenged him. I guess Cooke didn't think the fiery, 18-year-old Vancouver native would respond the way he did.

The result of the altercation was Cooke momentarily knocked out as Kane skated to the box while Thrashers and NHL fans rejoiced. A stretcher was brought out, but Cooke was able to skate off under his own power.

Remember when Tie Domi sucker-punched Ulf Samuelsson years ago? There was an outrage over that as well—an outrage that it nobody did it sooner.

When you chose to live by the sword, you die by the sword. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. What comes around, goes around. Insert generic cliche phrase for retribution here ______.

I'm sorry, but Matt Cooke had this coming—for a long time.

Cooke's most recent note on a laundry list full of incidents came on March 7, with the highly publicized Marc Savard headshot.

Unless you've been living under a rock, every NHL fan knows that the flawless NHL disciplinary system deemed the hit not suspension worthy.

Savard hasn't played a game since with no timetable for a return.

What Evander Kane did tonight, drilled two of the biggest problems I have with the NHL right in the head—no pun intended.

The first issue I have with the NHL is: the way the league is reacting to clean hits.

This is hockey, it's not ballet. No offense to ballet enthusiasts.

Thrashers' coach John Anderson summed it up perfectly.

"If they take exception to who gets hit out there, does that mean you are supposed to start a fight?" Anderson said.

Much like I am, Anderson was confused to how players are supposed to play the game these days.

"I don't get it. Crosby is so great for this game, but when you're always around the puck, you're going to get hit a little bit. Every time he gets body checked, does that mean somebody is going to get attacked?"

This is problem that is developing at rapid speeds in the NHL, lately.

It's like I'm watching a roller hockey game some nights.

Player A skates down the ice. Player B drills him with a hard, clean hit. Player A's teammate attacks Player B.

It's almost appalling to watch some nights. What happened to taking a hit and getting back into the play and waiting for the opportunity to hit your opponent with an equally hard, legal hit?

The next problem that I have with the NHL that this Kane fight kind of deals with is: the instigator rule.

If this instigator rule isn't in effect, Cooke and players alike don't make it out of the game alive.

Look at how many cheapshots and headshots have been in the league over the last five years or so. Think it has nothing to do with the instigator rule? You're out of your mind if you think it doesn't.

These players get to run around and have literally no fear. It's one thing to take liberties against your opponents knowing full-well that you're going to pay the price in the near future. It's another thing when you can run around like guerrilla warfare knowing you're not going to get touched.

Cooke doesn't make it out of that March 7 game against Boston if a guy like Tony Twist or Stu Grimson is laced up at the end of the Bruins bench.

Only time will tell what is going to happen, but if the league wants to clean up it's act, these are two huge problems that need to be addressed.


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