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.


Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

I watched all those collisions from that link and it just disgusts me that no one has got him back yet. Pardon my language, but this guy is an absolute shithead. He has no respect for anyone and hides behind the refs when he has to face the music. I also got pissed listening to the Penguins commentators. At least 70% of them they didn't blame Cooke, they blamed the vulnerable player! In minor hockey they have Stop signs on the back of the jerseys to remind people not to hit from behind. Maybe Cooke needs one that says, "Hey, Asshole: Don't do it again!"

Shahab Khan's picture

Mario, Ray Sherro and Sydney need to step up and say something.

I know Sydney won't say anything because all he cares about his himself.

Ray follows Mario - so that's it - Mario must say something! anything!

Glen Miller's picture

As I said, anything less than scratching Cooke for the rest of this season is unacceptable to me. It isn't relevant what the league does. If they suspend him 5 games then Mario needs to say Cooke will not play again this season, regular season or postseason. Cooke is exactly the type of player Lemieux spoke out about.

Rob McGowan's picture

The Penguins announcers are some of the most biased and unprofessional announcers I have ever listened too. Granted, the Islanders were wrong by many standards in the Isles/Pens game. Even as an Isles fan who loved seeing the team stand up for themselves, bring them together as a team, and tell the entire league that we're not going to be pushed around anymore, I still knew and believed that disciplinary action was warranted. But hearing them say that the Islanders were a joke of an organization and even more of an embarassment for having games like that etc... that very well may be their opinions, but you DON'T say stuff like that in the professional world. If that was allowed I'm sure plenty of reporters, bloggers, and so forth would share more with their readers than they actually do.

As far as Mario, I doubt he'll do anything. He was a poster boy for the league and has so much pull. He won't back his words up because he probably feels like he doesn't have too. He's Mario. He can say and do whatever he wants. If you ask me, that's more embarassing than anything else.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

You dont really have to talk about the Penguins announcers. Pittsburgh people mute the TV and put the stereo on because listening to Staggy and Bob are terrible. They are very unprofessional and have very little insight on the game of hockey.

As for Mario, he does have to do something. Matt Cooke has gotten to the point were he has hurt his team more than helped it as of late. This is the third incident this season and you will most likely not see him in a penguin jersey if it happens again any time soon. I feel this is a ten game suspension and a fine.

Shahab Khan's picture

Dan Bylsma basically told the press he doesn't want Cooke to play anymore

George Prax's picture

I didn't have a problem with what Mario said a month ago - because he was right. Regardless of whether he technically employs Matt Cooke. And frankly, if it wasn't for the microscope surrounding headshots and especially the intent of these hits lately, I think that any of the other 29 teams would employ him too, because he's apparently a great team guy and he can actually play hockey - unlike a lot of other goons in the league. But that doesn't excuse the crap he pulls. The guy clearly has some psychological issues and he's not fit to play in a league for men like the NHL. Anything less than the rest of the season is unacceptable. There was obvious intent, he has a long history of dirty hits and it's at the forefront of the hockey headlines. Cooke has to go, and it doesn't matter what the league, the media, or anyone else thinks the consequences from the NHLPA might be.

Time to get rid of this guy. And if the NHL doesn't then Glen is right, Mario does.

Quinn Mell-Cobb's picture

As a Penguins supporter, it's simply become impossible to justify Cooke's actions. Not only is he still deliberately looking to hurt other players, but now he's costing the Penguins points, as he did earlier today in a game where Pittsburgh was arguably in control before his latest bonehead attack on McDonagh.

I completely agree with just about everything I've read here, if the NHL doesn't throw the book at Cooke here, then the Penguins have to themselves (and on a somewhat unrelated note, I also echo everyone's sentiments about how awful Steigerwald and Errey are at commentary).

StephD's picture

It's refreshing to see that even fans of the Penguins have had enough...

The timing of this latest incident is very interesting, given the little PR piece Cook had in Sports Illustrated this month.