The NHL must take action on Cooke; it's not Mario's job

There might be a lot of people out there who are quite upset from Matt Cooke’s most recent hit. They have every right to be since this is Matt’s third or fourth suspension in a Penguins Jersey. In a game against the New York Rangers, Cooke threw up an elbow into the face of young defensemen Ryan McDonagh. While the hit will garner a suspension, it should be anywhere from 5-10 games, but Cooke might be in more trouble after that hit.

Many people have jumped on top of Pens co-owner Mario Lemieux for not speaking up right after the event. It is called being a hypocrite, some would say, and when someone calls you a hypocrite it typically means that they themselves are also hypocrites. In the most recent game against the Rangers, Head Coach John Tortorella was visibly upset after the game, but held his own in the locker room by saying that it was not his place to say. For that I give credit to Coach Torts, he has typically been a guy to tear apart the penguins for their physical play. The man did not say anything stupid and did not put himself in a media nightmare, so thank you John. Someone should also tell Bruce down in Washington how this is done, because that man doesn’t know how to keep quiet.

As for those who have blatantly called Mario a “hypocrite” for talking head shots while employing a man like Matt Cooke, it is time you sit back and shut up. For one, Mario Lemieux employs a player, but it isn’t Mario who is out there hitting these people. If Matt Cooke were to come out and say what Mario had, he would be a hypocrite, but Mario did not. Speaking firstly on the Islander situation, Mario criticized the NHL Management for being weak and irresponsible. If I am correct everyone else in the entire league has been screaming this for about two or three years. So now Mario is the king of all hypocrites for saying what everyone else has? Who is to say? Ranger fans have Sean Avery in their roster so I’m guessing they cannot talk about this for they too will be hypocrites, according to some’s logic.

The reasoning is simple; Mario Lemieux does not have to do anything to justify his comments. The fact that Mario has stepped up into a vocal role for the league means a lot for what is going to happen. Guys like Shanahan and Yzerman have stepped up to say that Mario was right and there needs to be another committee that regulates suspension worthy hits and the punishments that follow. He is a guy that is trying to change the way the game is played and the way the NHL operates. Mario has become the liaison for owners to the NHL management and to put it nicely, there are few owners that actually care this much about the game. So for those who are screaming for the penguins to suspend Matt Cooke indefinitely for his actions, which would be hypocritical in it’s own right, it’s time to listen up.

The entire case that Mario was trying to make was the NHL’s lack of consistency on rulings and their incompetence of legislation on those rulings. Mario wants the NHL to become stricter on their rulings and take more responsibility for the player’s safety in this game. To bypass the NHL Management and suspend Cooke himself without a ruling would not just show how little faith there is in the NHL management, but it would go against his own beliefs that the NHL management needs to become stricter. The only time Mario and the Penguins management should step up and suspend Matt Cooke is if the NHL fails to do so. To bypass the management would be against Mario and the GM’s goal of creating a stronger and more competent management. This suspension is a job of the NHL and the head hits committee, Mario shouldn't have to do a thing, if they actually listened to what he had to say.


Owen Durkin's picture

The Penguins ultimately are responsible to the league and its fans for the conduct of the players cashing paycheques issued by the organization.

If Matt Cooke is the type of player the Penguins not only choose to pay, but also select as a leader by appointing him an alternate captain, they fail as an organization to uphold the mandate of the board of governors that Mario has appealed to with regard to the issue of dangerous play.

The Pens are talking out of both sides of their mouth on this.

George Prax's picture

I was one of the people to defend Mario for his comments last month, because he was right, and because the fact that he employs Cooke is irrelevant. Any team would have taken Cooke prior to this season, and frankly he's still a useful player regardless of the hits. And this is coming from the guy who probably hates him the most.

But the guy has to go. And if the NHL isn't going to take steps to prevent him from doing this again, his team does. Mario wants these hits out of the league, then he has to man up and do his part. It's as if a company owner complains about another company doing sleazy things to try and steal business from them, and then turning around and doing the same things. I agreed with Mario, but he has to back up his statements if the NHL won't do it for him. It's as simple as that.

Phil T's picture

Cooke needs to be gone for a full season to think about it. If he does it again, ban him for life

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

Listen, I am not defending Matt Cooke nor am I saying the Penguins should not release Cooke. I am saying that it shouldn't come to this, the NHL Management is so bad that everyone is now looking at their own GM's to punish players. I am trying to point out that mario should not "have" to remove him or punish him. It is not the owners responsibility to do such a thing. The NHL needs to address this situation properly, sit him out for the rest of the season, maybe the playoffs as well. If the NHL doesn't do anything Mario should, but the point of this article is to show that it shouldn't be the responsibility of the owners, thats why the NHL employs Cambell and Bettman.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

To say that Mario has taken a leadership role in voicing his displeasure with the league and head hits, how can you say there is nothing he can do? Matt Cooke is a member of his organization. Mario has plenty of power over him. I was happy to hear that Mario spoke to him, but for you to say that Mario's only role is to get on a soap box and preach to the masses is disingenuous.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

Matthew, I never said there is nothing he can do, Im saying he shouldn't have to do this. This is the job of NHL management. I also never said Mario should just preach, I beleive I talk about Mario working with the NHL officials and the GM's in developing rules and regulations to help the game grow. So both of your points are either misundstood by me, or you misunderstood my arguement.

George Prax's picture

I get what you're saying Chuck - it shouldn't have to come to Shero and Mario, it should be dealt with before them, at the NHL level. But at the same time they do have to take responsibility for his actions as well, and make sure he doesn't get a chance to come back after whatever suspension he's handed expires. And it would be nice to see Mario back up his words and deal with this internally AS WELL, no matter what the NHL does.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

I never said they shouldn't do anything, I just said it shouldn't have to come down to them. I know Coach Bylsma and Mario have talked to Cooke and they are not happy, Mario apparently used the term, final chance.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

Congrats on the NHL for making the right call. There is nothing more devastating than removing a player from the playoffs, that hurts so much more than him and hopefully Matt Cooke will realize how to play effective and not dirty, because Mario has said one more and your gone!

George Prax's picture

I honestly wish it was flat out the entire playoffs but I can't complain about this. You're right Chuck, it's the right call.

Owen Durkin's picture

To exonerate PITT management of its accountability like the timbre of this piece suggests, only perpetuates the attitude of league wide impotence in addressing the matter effectively.

Colin Campbell indicated today that up until the hearing, Cooke has maintained that he was being unfairly singled out and saw no wrong doing in his conduct. Campbell further indicates that this is the first time either the player, or his team admitted that the player's conduct is unbecoming of NHL hockey.

This wasn't Cooke's worst offense, yet it's the first time the organization takes a stand. Why now?
Is the timing in relation to both Crosby's situation, and Mario's comments coincidental? How convenient..

Clearly, the team was well aware of the dangers of allowing the player to continue to push the envelope. By failing to coach and manage the player, the team copped out of its responsibility to be accountable for the way its employee carries out business. To suggest otherwise by passing it on to the league to intervene after the player has offended is a short-sighted interpretation. Just as the league fined management after the NYI/Pens disgrace for failing to control the actions of the players under their employ suggests responsibility does not stop with the player, Cooke's actions are indeed the responsibility of both the team and the player, especially considering the number of re-offenses, which the team rewarded him for by naming him a leader with the 'A'.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

BlueandWhite- Colin Cambell said that Cooke was a repeat offender that has not taken his previous suspensions to heart and has yet to change. The NHL made its statement clear that Cooke's actions in the past had forced them to such a strict ruling.
The organization has taken a stand on Matt Cooke's suspension everytime. They have come out and said that this would not be tolerated and that Cooke was already on thin ice. They worked with him constantly to change his game without taking away from his aggressive and effective play.
The point of the blog is one that you did not get. The blog states that the NHL must take care of this situation and it should not be the Penguins organization to suspend Cooke. The blog was to say that the inconsistant punishments by the NHL need to stop now and Matt Cooke must be the example.
If you know anything about the Penguins they have been coaching Cooke to change, Management has been on top of Cooke to change drastically. The Penguins awarded Cooke with the A because of the injuries to others and his lockerroom attitude. Your claim is basically arguing something that I did not write. I said that the league needs to take responsibility and enforce the severe punishments they claim to have been doing for a year now.

Owen Durkin's picture

My comment was in reference to your statement that " shouldn't have to come down to them."

In part I agree. It should not 'come down' to them; it should have started with them, by disciplining the player internally, taking away ice time, etc. until he got the message. I believe the history of events indicate this was completely about saving face, and I certainly don't recall Mario, Bylsma or Shero taking any stance whatsoever on Cooke's conduct prior to the latest incident. To the contrary, recent outrage over Mario's condemnation of the league was by and large due to the overt hypocrisy of their pronounced lack of commentary regarding the actions of their employee, who's 4 of 5 suspensions have occurred as a Penguin.
Mario has too much love for the game to be so reckless as to encourage dangerous play. But clearly, the organization which he is a co-owner of has been irresponsible in turning a blind eye so often while Cooke disregarded the league's admonition to re-think his attitude about the way he played the game.

The Leafs had a guy like that called Ryan Hollweg. They acknowledged their responsibility to abide by the conventions of the game and got rid of him before he could hurt the team the way Cooke has.

The league cannot dole out random punishment without precedent. Only now that PIT has failed in their responsibility to the league by continuing to condone the conduct of a repeat offender can Campbell justify a suspension like the one he slapped Cooke with.