NHL made strong call in suspending Penguins' Matt Cooke
The NHL came down hard on Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke on Monday by suspending him for the team’s 10 remaining regular-season games and the first round of the playoffs for his latest misdeed, an elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh on Sunday.
Cooke, who was suspended for four games in February for an ugly hit from behind on Columbus’ Fedor Tyutin, will lose $219,512.20 in salary.
After resolving last week during general managers’ meetings to minimize and more severely punish blows to the head, the league had little choice but to sanction Cooke harshly. But the NHL has found ways to avoid strong statements in the past and its dispensing of justice has long been inconsistent and unpredictable.
The sentence announced Monday by Colin Campbell, the league’s chief disciplinarian, is entirely appropriate. The league could have gone even further and suspended Cooke for the entire playoffs but the sanction couldn’t have been any less.
“Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position,” Campbell said in a statement released by the league.
“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.”
Penguins General Manager Ray Shero, looking beyond his own interest to the greater issue of banishing head injuries, supported the punishment. That was the right thing to do, and it's not usually the stance taken by a general manager who’s losing a potentially valuable player.
“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,” Shero said in a statement issued by the Penguins.
“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.”
The sad part is that Cooke isn’t just a goon and can actually play. He simply has no impulse control. The NHL took away his right to exercise those impulses for a while.
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Penguins left wing Matt Cooke sends Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar into the boards during the first period of a game March 15 in Ottawa. Credit: Adrian Wyld / Associated Press