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NHL suspends Matt Cooke for remainder of regular season and first round of playoffs

Mar 21, 2011, 5:38 PM EDT

Matt Cooke Getty Images

The NHL has weighed in on Matt Cooke‘s deplorable elbow to the back of Ryan McDonagh‘s head and their ruling is strong. The NHL has suspended Cooke for the remainder of the regular season (10 games) as well as for the first round of the NHL playoffs. At a minimum it’s a 14-game ban and it’s 17 games at the most, but either way it’s a firm message from the league that these sorts of things will not be tolerated. Cooke will forfeit $219,512.50 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell taking this strong of a stand against a repeat offender is a breath of fresh air from an office that’s often maddeningly inconsistent. In this case with a player causing a dangerous play with reckless abandon, that’s one area that Campbell’s been firm on. Trevor Gillies being hit with separate nine and ten game suspensions for blows to the head is an example of that. The key now for the league is to apply this heavy-handed kind of punishment right off the bat rather than waiting for a player to get away with it once, twice, or in Cooke’s case five times before hammering them.

Campbell’s take on this displays the league’s feelings this time around.

“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.”

The fact that the NHL is also hitting Cooke with a suspension for the playoffs as well speaks volumes as the playoffs are generally when suspensions are softened because the games are more important to the team. Think back to the 2007 playoffs alone that saw then Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger get suspended on two different occasions for one game for questionable hits. Cooke being forced to sit down for a full round is a huge statement from the league regardless of how many games that series goes.

The question now becomes what will the Penguins response to this be. Pens owner Mario Lemieux has been outspoken about dangerous plays and has both taken the NHL to task and offered suggestions on how to improve things. Considering Cooke is Lemieux’s own problem child, his statement (should he offer one) will be fascinating to hear.

Kudos to the NHL on this one because this was a time that demanded action on their part. For all the talk and grandstanding about caring about player health and wanting to eliminate blows to the head, letting Cooke slip by with a minimal punishment this time around would’ve shown the league to be hypocritical and egregiously careless on these matters. The league didn’t fail this time, now they just need to prove to us how consistent they want to be.

  1. nikolainyr - Mar 21, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    It’s kind of unusual to say, but I agree with Colin Campbell here.
    This is the right call, and I’m glad he didn’t go lightly just because McDonough wasn’t injured. This is one of the longest suspensions he’s given out and he’s punishing the repeated behavior instead of the result.
    Curious to see how Lemieux and Ray Shero handle him either in the off-season or second round.
    Even more interesting is whether or not this would change his game. I don’t expect Cooke to ever stop playing hard and finishing every check, but can he become a player that does that without the reckless intent to injure?
    There are hundreds of guys in the league that can, but the cheap shot artists and agitators need to be hated to play well. When the leash gets pulled back on dogs like this, often their overall play suffers (see: Avery, Sean)

    • capsrockva - Mar 21, 2011 at 6:55 PM

      like I said in my post it’s about time the league looks at repeat offenders

  2. psujay - Mar 21, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    If Mario had released (waived) Cooke at the same time he’d released his previous statement people would have taken him seriously. Last time he said the NHL had a chance to make a statement. This time he has a chance. Sit Cooke down for the remainder of his contract, waive him, whatever. Otherwise the words will still be hollow to rest of the hockey world.

  3. capsrockva - Mar 21, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    It’s about time he got what he deserved. I personally think he should have been suspended longer cause I watch that game yesterday and since he has that reputation. He is a dirty player.

  4. capsrockva - Mar 21, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    spoken like a PA fan. so GD bias and can’t see the reality of the situation. Matt Cooke has been a dirty player for all his career so far

  5. capsrockva - Mar 21, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    “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.” That was from your GM

    • derpdederpdederp - Mar 21, 2011 at 8:25 PM

      not much else he or mario can say after lemieuxs last comments. they wanted the nhl to get tough and they got their wish. too bad bettman didnt take marios earlier advice to hold teams accountable for suspended players. in that case he would also be out $1 million

  6. polegojim - Mar 21, 2011 at 8:12 PM

    Ok fine, but ‘the rest of the season’, should include ‘the rest of the season’, meaning… see you next year, NOT see you in the second round of the playoffs, if the Pens make it.

    Punk deserves a first class lesson – makes me wish Darren McCarty still had his skates on. I’d be happy to worry about THAT head injury.

    • capsrockva - Mar 21, 2011 at 8:24 PM

      i agree

  7. dfensfelix - Mar 21, 2011 at 9:56 PM

    I’d love to see Derek Boogaard get a hold of him (maybe it’s happened already, dunno). I love the idea of having an enforcer on a team, it’s great for team pride and it’s great for the popularity of the NHL in general. But brainless thugs like Cooke do nothing but bad things for hockey, and funny enough, their own teams especially.

    • derpdederpdederp - Mar 21, 2011 at 10:53 PM

      yeah, too bad cookes the kind guy that doesnt back up anything he does on the ice with his fists, at least not against guys his size or bigger. hes like sean avery, but instead of talking lots of sh*t he throws elbows

  8. stakex - Mar 21, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    I absolutely hate Cooke, and really wanted the NHL to throw the book at him… and I am fairly happy with this suspension.

    My fear was that the league was going to slap him on the wrist and let him go with a 2-4 game suspension… but the fact that they not only suspended him the remaining 10 games, but the 1st round was well came as a pleasent suprise. The NHL generally is very light when it comes to suspensions involving the playoffs, and to be suspended for an entire round for a hit that did not hurt anyone (that we know of yet.,.. it might have) is very stiff. Thats exactlly the message the league needed to show Cooke… that his dirty play will not be tolerated, and its a message the league has failed to send several times.

    Now though, that message has been sent… and hopefully it sinks in. I’d still like to see Captain Hypocrisy’s response to all this, and see if he plans to send his own message about dirty play by suspendeding Cooke the rest of the playoffs. If Mario is really serious about holding players accountable, and cleaning up the game, he would do everything he can to clean up Cookes play.

    He won’t though of course. We all know his complaining and posturing was because he felt his team was screwed on a few calls this year by the league (That Islanders game, and the Crosby hits… both of which the league handled just fine btw), and not because he actually cares about the state of the game in terms of dirty hits. Everyone bends over backwards to kiss Marios ass and pretend he just wants to do the right thing… and they do that simply because of who he is. The fact is hes a whinning, complaining hypocrit… just like he was as a player, and no one in the media had the balls to call him out on it back then either. None of that changes unless he puts up in this case… and if he doesn’t, he needs to shut up.

  9. donttouchthedirtypenny - Mar 21, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    Matt Douche

  10. hulkhogan69 - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:00 AM

  11. jkay123 - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Cooke is classless, he doesn’t even back it up with his fists either. Watching the game live, i couldnt even comprehend how he can just throw a flying elbow like that.

    When he pretty much forced Kane to fight him last yr was the best, it couldnt have happened to a better guy, goats a 19 yr old kid into a fight and then gets knocked the eff out, nothing more embarrassing in hockey after a fight when the training staff has to come out there and strap you into a stretcher. He didnt learn his lesson from that and still tries to hurt players with meaningless elbows. wouldnt mind seeing another teenager knock him out cold, maybe bieber.

    You can tell he was a dbag just from that 24/7 series, when him and his son were wearing matching suits after the game….get lost.

  12. capsrockva - Mar 22, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    I love a lot of the posts on the dbag

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