Another Matt Cooke Incident: Time To Step Up Mario
A great and resilient win today by the Rangers has been overshadowed somewhat by yet another cheap shot by Penguins forward Matt Cooke. (For those of you who haven't seen the hit I will link to it in a bit). In essence, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh was shooting the puck from the center red line along the boards into the Rangers offensive zone. Cooke skated from center towards an unsuspecting McDonagh. When the rookie defenseman moved slightly and Cooke realized he was going to whiff on contacting McDonagh, Cooke threw his left elbow out and caught McDonagh smack in the chin. The official saw it right away, handed Cooke a 5 minute major penalty and tossed him from the game.
I am sick of this type of play, which seems to be occurring with greater frequency despite the league's attempts to curtail it. Specifically I am tired of Matt Cooke. Here's a link to Daniel Tolenky's site in which Tolensky has compiled 15 separate incidents involving Cooke and his blatant attempts to injure opponents. One man has the opportunity to send a clear message about both this type of play and player. That man is not Gary Bettman. It's Mario Lemieux, co-owner of the Penguins.
We all remember it was just weeks ago that Lemieux, in an open letter to the league, heavily criticized the NHL for not doing enough to discourage dangerous plays or protecting its players safety in the wake of the infamous contest between the Penguins and Islanders. At the time it sounded somewhat childish as he closed his open letter to the NHL by stating he would have to rethink his remaining in the league as an owner (I'm going to take my puck and go home). Many jumped on Mario since the Penguins employ a guy like Cooke and the fact Lemieux isn't an involved owner behind the scenes.
Just recently, Lemieux went a step further by proposing a concept calling for the league to not only punish the offending player but fining the team he plays for as well. I actually like the concept. Lemieux even accepted his club would have been fined substantially under his plan.
Well Mario now you have a chance to prove you are serious about curtailing violence within the game and improving the safety of its players. You can suspend Matt Cooke for the rest of the season. If the CBA doesn't allow for individual teams to suspend players and subsequently requiring the player to forfeit his salary, then do the next best thing; make him a healthy scratch for the rest of the year. Don't wait for the league to act. You have made yourself a strong voice on this issue but stop being just a voice and act.
If the league does the expected, slap Cooke on the wrist with something like a 3 game suspension, then Lemieux must respond by publicly announcing Cooke will not play for the Penguins for the rest of the season; playoffs included.
I respected Lemieux as a player. I appreciate that he has twice saved the Penguins franchise, once as a player and the other by buying the team out of bankruptcy. I like his idea about punishing the franchises that continue to dress repeat violators of hits to the head. Now it's time for him to back up his words with even stronger actions. Get to it Mario.