I’m just going to come out and say it; I hate Matt Cooke.
I didn’t like him when he played for Vancouver, I didn’t like him when he played for Washington, and I still don’t like him now that he plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
And it bugs me to no end to know that he has a Stanley Cup ring (from when the Penguins won the Cup in 2009), while so many other, much more deserving guys have yet to hoist the silver tankard high above their heads.
Why I am picking on Cooke, you ask?
Well, the guy everyone loves to hate was back in the media this week, and for all the wrong reasons.
Cooke saw himself ejected from his club’s contest against New York after he was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for elbowing Rangers forward Ryan McDonagh in the head.
It’s funny that this issue should come up again, just one week after I wrote a column defending Boston’s Zdeno Chara after his devastating hit on Montreal forward Max Pacioretty.
And while the Chara/Pacioretty incident, I felt, was a clean hit that resulted in a severe injury, the Cooke incident was a text-book example of what the NHL is trying to remove from the game we all love and cherish.
Cooke, who did the exact same thing to Boston’s Marc Savard last season (knocking him out of action for almost an entire season and maybe even the rest of his career because of a concussion), and who has already been suspended once this season for four games for a check from behind, has once again been called on to the carpet for a meeting with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, with Campbell handing Cooke a minimum 14 game suspension – the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs.
The suspension is adequate, but a more effective deterrent might come in the form of an idea floated recently by a columnist who writes for a daily newspaper in Edmonton.
In his opinion piece, he suggested that coaches and teams be held financially responsible for the actions of the players, and he used New York Islanders forward Trevor Gillies as an example.
Gillies, who was suspended for nine games back in February after causing a dust up with Pittsburgh before returning to action for just one game and earning himself another 10 game suspension for a check from behind on Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck, is a fourth line player, barely making half a million dollars.
Would a team fine of $1 million dollars not make the Islanders think twice before taking Gillies’ leash off?
Think about it for a second.
If that kind of fine was waiting to be handed down for the actions of a fourth line guy making half of that, would the team not find it financially worth it to keep his actions in check.
And where is Penguins owner Mario Lemieux in all of this?
Just days after Gillies` first suspension, Super Mario came out with a scathing review of the NHL and it`s disciplinary policies, saying league officials weren`t doing enough to remove head shots and protect players, and he questioned whether he wanted to even remain part of the league.
Lemieux took quite a beating in the media for his comments, with most reporters snickering at the tough talk from the guy who happens to have one of the worst offenders in the league wearing 24 for his team.
Now is the time for Lemieux to put his money where his mouth is, because a guy like Matt Cooke doesn’t belong in this league.
The league has acted, and so now must Lemieux.
Otherwise, he is nothing more than a hypocrite.