Nick Kypreos of Sportnet, ex-player, tweets that the NHL suspended Matt Cooke for the rest of the regular season (10 games) plus the first round of the playoffs for his cheap-shot elbow to Rangers rookie Ryan McDonagh Sunday in Pittsburgh.
UPDATE: That has now been comfirmed! (The official announcement from the NHL is below).
The NHL had no choice, really. This was a crossroads decision. With all the blabbering all week long following the GM meetings, all season long with regards to a rule (albeit one, until now, without teeth) about headshots … with Cooke’s teammate and captain Sid The Skid Crosby out with a concussion … with Mario Lemieux’s public, hypocritical whining … and with all the damage that Cooke has managed to this season and last …
Well, Cooke just put this decision right up there on a platter for NHL HQ.
In my opinion, Cooke’s recent body (and head) of work — ending Marc Savard’s career, going after Alex Ovechkin’s knee, Artem Anisimov’s head, Chris Drury, Fedor Tyutin (his most recent suspension, last month) — is worse, far worse, than Dale Hunter’s single moment of brainlessness, the cheap shot on Pierre Turgeon in the 1993 playoffs that earned a 21-game ban from Gary Bettman. How does Cooke, repeat offender, intent-to-injure specialist, not get at least that? I guess you could argue that potentially seven playoff games and 10 season games is greater than 21 regular-season games (though players don’t lose pay if suspended for playoff games).
Because the league had become wimpy, wimpy, wimpy on this issue. It was waiting for its next Todd Bertuzzi/Marty McSorley moment. It was encouraging the Trevor “Village People” Gillies of the world to get their revenge. It kept allowing Cooke to wreck seasons and careers after sitting in the classroom corner for a quick timeout.
This was time to put the whole sport on notice, and the NHL didn’t whiff, this time. Good job.
By going after McDonagh’s head, when he had every opportunity to deliver a clean hit, or a borderline late hit and clearly chose the elbow-to-head shot, Cooke was laughing at the NHL’s justice system and the game’s very public attempts to remove such flagrant cheapshots. By, time after time, taking shots aimed at inflicting injury, Cooke has quite clearly shown that such actions are not only predatory and repetitious, but also premeditated.
Here is the official announcement from the NHL:
PENGUINS’ COOKE SUSPENDED FOR REMAINDER OF REGULAR SEASON
AND FIRST ROUND OF STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
TORONTO (March 21, 2011) — Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke has been suspended for the remainder of the regular season (10 games) and the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for delivering an elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in NHL game #1080 yesterday, the National Hockey League announced today. Cooke will forfeit $219,512.20 in salary.
“Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. “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.”
Cooke’s most recent suspension was for four games on Feb. 9, 2011 and under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement forfeits his salary based on the number of games in the season (82), rather than the number of days (186). The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
The incident occurred at 4:36 of the third period and Cooke was assessed a major penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct.
Cooke will miss Pittsburgh’s remaining 10 regular-season games and be ineligible for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.