Matt Cooke’s dangerous and inexcusable antics continued today with a brutal WWE-style flying elbow to the New York Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh’s head.
The officials, to their credit, immediately escorted Cooke off the ice—there was no doubt that he’d played his last shift of that game. The only question remaining is not whether the NHL will suspend Cooke for the fifth time in his thuggish career, but for how long.
Don’t believe it? Perhaps another example of a player’s reputation making things seem worse than they are? Let me allay your doubts with Prosecution’s Exhibit A:
I have several DC-area friends who support the Penguins, and know several more Pens’ fans living in Pittsburgh. Every one I’ve spoken to is embarrassed that Cooke wears the black-and-gold. Mind you, the Penguins aren’t saints without Cooke… of course, what NHL team doesn’t have a few players skating on the edge of the rules from time to time?
Hockey’s a rough game, as it should be. But no other player in the NHL so egregiously and consistently attempts to injure opponents. Cooke’s actions demonstrate a lack of respect for the game, his opponents, and himself.
You may recall Mario Lemieux’s statement last month: “The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed.”
Was Lemieux talking about suspending Cooke for a knee-on-knee hit against Alexander Ovechkin? Or Cooke’s elbow to Evander Kane? A forearm to Keith Yandle’s head? (I’d get hand cramps trying to list Cooke’s incidents from this season alone.)
No: Lemiuex was upset about the admittedly crazy fight-night in Long Island on February 11. I suggest, however, that SuperMario reconsider employing the dirtiest player in the league if he wishes to remain seated comfortably on that high horse.
This is your opportunity to send a message, Mr. Lemieux: Suspend Cooke. Don’t wait for the NHL.
(Better yet, waive him.)
On a final note, it is a rare thing for me to agree with Don Cherry. It’s just as rare for Cherry to call out a dirty player instead of glorifying Slap Shot-style hockey. But almost exactly one year ago, Cherry went off on the Penguins’ cheap-shot artist… so, for the first and probably last time, I’ll leave it to Don Cherry to sum up.
[21 March Update ] The NHL suspended Matt Cooke for the remainder of the regular season (10 games) plus the first round of the playoffs (4 – 7 games).