Just a quick little post in the aftermath of today’s 5-2 New York Rangers victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Unfortunately, I am not writing about how the Rangers got a very important win today on the road. I am not writing about how Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh continue to amaze with being the team’s best defensemen. I am not even writing about Ryan Callahan, who is starting to prove me wrong when I said he would never be a skilled offensive forward. Instead, here I am, writing about yet another headshot from Penguins’ cheapshot artist Matt Cooke, who has already served one suspension this season, and one last year, after he almost ended the career of Marc Savard.
What is it with this epidemic of stupidity that has crept into the minds of hockey players of late? The league is in the middle of a crusade right now because hits to the head are at an all time high, and they seemingly came from out of nowhere because this was never really a problem in the past, just a bunch of isolated incidents. Last night on Hockey Night Live, hosts Al Trautwig, Billy Jaffe, Ken Daneyko, and Ron Duguay devoted about twenty minutes to discussing this, and the new policy where team doctors have to hold players that might be concussed for fifteen minutes to fully examine them. All agreed that these hits need to stop, and if the NHL wants to completely eradicate them, they need to step up with harsher sentences for offenders.
[Enter Matt Cooke, stage left]
The repeat offender showed his dirt yet again this afternoon, with a blindside elbow to the head of McDonagh, who did not even have the puck when attacked. Thankfully he was alright, and got up before the trainer completely made it over to him, but what if he wasn’t? What if Cooke caught him in the same spot as Savard? What if the promising young defenseman had his career ended or jeopardized because of this idiot? This frustration surrounding Cooke and his dangerous antics was only escalated when Mario Lemieux called out the league a month ago for not doing enough to protect players, a sentiment he gathered after watching his star and league poster boy Sidney Crosby sitting out due to a concussion. It is only by complete irony that Lemieux happens to be the one that employs Matt Cooke, and the firestorm of anger directed at him after he made those asinine comments is because of that.
On to today, there was not even an argument from Cooke or even his head coach from what I could tell. Why? Because Cooke knew he had done wrong, and that is the problem—he just keeps on doing it. He has no regard for the safety of players around him, and keeps getting away with it because of the garbage suspensions he is given. What does a two or four suspension do? The money a player loses is pocket change. I understand that a Penguins’ player can do no wrong in the eyes of the NHL, but if the league really wants to show they are serious, they need to hit Cooke with at least a ten game suspension. It is unfortunate that this happened against a Ranger player, because I just seem like an angry fan ranting, but Cooke is a repeat offender who needs to learn his lesson. Anything less than ten games will mean absolutely nothing, because he’ll just do it again— you know he will.
If the league wants to show that there is no double standard, and that they actually mean business, they will do something severe here. Cooke deserves to be made an example of, because he is not an angel, as you already know. I do not expect hits to the head to end overnight, nor can they simply be banned outright, but these blatant headshots need to stop, and stop immediately. Let today be the beginning of the end for cheapshot artists in the NHL.
EDIT: Here is a nice piece from Daniel Tolensky, with 15 videos of Cooke deliberately attempting to injured players, appropriately titled, “Matt Cooke: A History of Violence”.