March 21, 2011
Matt Cooke Suspension Draws Praise
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the NHL suspending Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke for the rest of the regular season plus the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is that no one seems to object. Not even the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"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," said Penguins general manager Ray Shero.
Shero's stance closely echoes owner Mario Lemieux's comments a few weeks ago about the need to eliminate head shots in hockey. Ironically, Lemieux was criticized heavily at that time because he employed Cooke, one of the dirtiest players in the league.
What Lemieux opts to do with Cooke from here on out will be interesting. He could really make a stand on the issue by further punishing Cooke. He could announce that Cooke's days with the Penguins are over, sending him home regardless if Pittsburgh advances past the opening round of the playoffs.
That is unlikely though, as Cooke has 2 years and a total of $3.6 million left on his guaranteed contract. It would not make much sense to pay him to stay home the next two seasons. But that would be an amazing stance to take.
One has to think, despite his contractual commitments, that Cooke will not play in Pittsburgh next season. They could bury him in the minor leagues, or try to trade him, although I'm not sure which team would take him given his controversial history.
Matt Cooke is a dangerous player. He has been a useful role player throughout his career, and is a great person who is very devoted to charity work, but he hits to hurt and is not afraid to do so in dirty fashion. Such players need to be excused from the ice. Players are supposed to hit for the purpose of removing a player from the puck, not to hurt a person. Furthermore, pests in hockey are like goons - they are there, but the game would be so much better off if they were not.