Matt Cooke Should Be Banned From The NHL

Last year the rehabilitation of the Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cooke became one of the league's best stories. Following a 2011 season that saw him suspended for the final 10 games, Cooke served only 44 minutes in penalties in 2012, a career low. His reputation as the league's dirtiest player influenced partial owner/franchise savior Mario Lemieux to issue an ultimatum: Clean your act up or you're gone.

To Cooke's credit, he chose the former. While others continued to chirp the one-time goon, the tenacious winger turned himself into a valuable asset for one of the league's best teams.

This “changed man” narrative makes his actions last night appear all the more troubling. Late in the second period of Pittsburgh's game with the Ottawa Senators, Cooke chased the Sens Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson into the corner. Karlsson beat Cooke to the puck and kicked it away. The two came together against the boards before the Swedish defenseman fell to a heap in agonizing pain. Cooke could have pinned Karlsson cleanly against the glass. He could have bumped his opponent and skated back into the play.

Instead he did this ...

It's gruesome to watch really. In stomping on the back of Karlsson's leg, Cooke lacerated the young star's Achilles tendon. The Penguins announcers insisted the play was inadvertent. TSN's experts concurred. Hockey is a fast game and often chaotic. When two players go into a corner anything can happen. Two hundred pound athletes clash (on ice, mind you) with the intent of rendering the other player obsolete.

But given the offending player, given the victim and given the video evidence, I have no doubt in my mind that Cooke intentionally stomped on Karlsson. At no point in any game should a player go into a corner with his skate off the ice. And yet there's Cooke, blade in the air, ready to come down on Karlsson's leg with force.

Now the Senators' best player, the NHL's best defenseman, a star entering his prime at 22, will miss the rest of the season because of Cooke's actions — actions I'd define as cowardly, selfish, cruel and disgraceful. The English major in me wants to call them pusillanimous.

Some have suggested that if any player other than Cooke was involved, the uproar would be significantly more subdued. But it was Cooke, and he lost the benefit of the doubt years ago.

Consider this hit on Ryan McDonagh that landed Cooke his season-ending suspension in 2011 …

As Cooke approaches McDonagh his elbow is tucked. As soon as the defenseman retreats even a fraction, however, Cooke realizes that his body check will miss. He instinctively throws out his elbow to make sure he catches McDonagh, lest he fail to complete his job.

I don't think Cooke skated across the ice with the intent of elbowing the young Rangers defenseman. He simply reacted that way. The same is true for the incident with Karlsson. Karlsson moves to protect himself, bracing for the impact of Cooke's body check. Cooke knows he has a chance to line up a key opponent cleanly, as was the case with McDonagh, but when the opportunity slips he turns to more grisly tactics.

This is a guy who has been suspended four times by the league for dangerous hits. His most egregious cheap shot should have earned him another. Instead, it just effectively ended Marc Savard's NHL career. No amount of fair play can erase that record.

The league needs to make a strong ruling here. Chris Simon served a 30-game suspension for his stomp on Jarkko Ruutu in 2007. Cooke should receive that and more. Alas in the TSN clip, insider Bob McKenzie reports that the league won't even consider disciplinary action.

It appears the onus then is on the Pittsburgh Penguins, the franchise that championed harsher penalties for dangerous play, that watched its own star miss significant time from so-called “incidental contact.” If I'm their owner, I'm letting Matt Cooke know that his services are no longer needed.

A league that continually preaches player safety has no place for such heinous actions. I wanted to believe that Cooke could play effectively within the rules, but it appears he just can't help himself. For Ottawa, for Karlsson, for hockey fans everywhere, even for Cooke, it's a damn shame.

20 Replies to “Matt Cooke Should Be Banned From The NHL”

  1. I hate Matt Cooke. I think he's as dirty as it gets. But I really don't see any malicious intent on the play. Yes, his skate is up, but it's not like he straight up stomped him the way Simon did. Maybe he did and I just can't see it from this angle, but I tend to agree with the announcers on this one.

    I'm not saying Cooke should get the benefit of the doubt because he does have quite a dirty history, but I'm not sure he really did that with horrid intent. I don't know.

    1. If you watch the TSN guys, they're almost scared to admit the possibility that Cooke did it on purpose. I'm not saying he skated with the intent of slicing Karlsson's achilles, but he wanted to get him. It just doesn't feel good. His skate is in the air going into the corner. He places it on the back of Karlsson's leg. You've watched a lot of hockey, I've played a lot of hockey, have you seen that before? Someone putting his skate on another player's calf?
      Two other things. Cooke skates away after looking back. I know it's no this responsibility to stop play when he realizes someone is hurt, but he could at least apologize for the "accident." Remember Max Talbot earlier this season with Callahan?
      And then there's his comment after the game: "Obviously, I feel terrible about it. I wasn't trying to do that, obviously." Obviously, I disagree.

      1. The skate thing is a little odd. And I don't completely disagree with you either. But I didn't necessarily see a stomping motion.

        Then again, like you've said, it's Matt Cooke. This could just be him being sneaky dirty, which would be nothing new.

      2. It figures that a flyers fan would have that opinion, its a contact sport and injuries are going to happen. Its pretty clear that he was trying to step over him and ended up coming down on him in stead. If it was as malicious as you say it was, then he would have stomped on him rather than coming down on him when he was trying to step over him.

    1. For the record I'm from Philadelphia and don't think Matt Cooke did anything really egregious. Also the "HE'S FROM PHILLY/HE'S FROM PITTSBURGH" comments are fucking garbage and bring nothing to the discourse.

      1. Agree with Rev. I've been highly critical of Flyers too, see Zac Rinaldo. I wrote this as a hockey fan, not as a Flyers fan. Now you want to argue that it's not intentional, I'll hear you out.

  2. I thought this was hockey and hockey players were supposed to be tough. Not just a bunch of wussies complaining about a skate. If you don't like it, I hear golf is pretty safe. As long as there ain't no gators. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to drinking my Molson and watching hockey players behave like real man doing what it takes to win.

  3. If these guys can find that unprotected area and slice an Achilles it wouldn't happen periodically it would happen all the time. Cooke tried to pin him to the boards just like any other player does. His skate came up but if you watch anytime a smaller man attempts to pin a larger man the smaller man raises a leg to get leverage. There is no foot movement there is leg movement. This is just someone trying to make an issue because it was Cooke plain and simple. Cooke done nothing wrong and if anyone needs addressed it should have been Neil. I'm pretty sure Englland will be addressing it next game. As far as Murray and his comments? Pure Bush league.

  4. Dillon,
    I'm surprised by the number of people, including hockey people, who see this as an accident. I don't see how anyone could watch that and not conclude that Cooke deliberately kicked down with his skate blade on Karlsson's calf. I'd be surprised if he intended the result to be as bad, but have very little doubt that he wanted to hurt Karlsson with his blade, and send a message. Maybe a bad bruise or contusion, maybe even a cut. That it ended up being probably worse than he intended is no excuse. His act was reckless and dangerous.
    It's pretty gutless to not suspend him for a long, long time.

  5. Paul - I'd like to see your achilles against a skate. I'm sure it would fair much better. The "doing what it takes to win" is absolute garbage - get that out of here. Take that Molson and have about 12 more while you're at it. It might straighten your logic.

    Dillon, agree on every point. Great article.

  6. Ok seriously, how a guy losing balance and coming back down and accidentaly landing on a players ankle is worthy of a permanent ban is beyond me. I mean cmon, it is so obvious that it is an accident its silly to think it was a cheap shot. If James Neal had done this everyone would be saying that this accident is such a travisty that it happened to a young player but no, its Cookie. The man has cleaned up his act and turned himself into a rather dangerous scorer on the 3rd line (20+ goals last season... Might have been 19 but for a 3rd liner not named Jordan Staal thats damn good). Get off Cookes case, it was an accident and the video of the game backs it up. I mean acting shocked when a razor sharp skate cuts someone is pure idiocy. Add in the fact that your a flyers fan (fuck the flyers square in the ass without lubricant the cheap, talentless bastards) and any oppinion you have on the Pens is instantly invalid. While you might be well intentioned (I cant spell) and you might want to be unbiased, anything and everything you say about the pens will be dismissed as biased (fuck the phillies to... Eagles are ok). You are the same kind of guy who boos crosby simply because he is good. If you honestly think that that "hit" had any intent... I mean cmon guys lose their balance all the time and you can see Cooke losing his balance before he hits him, grabbing his shoulder. And you also see cookes skate come back up after realising he hit leg not ice. So obviously an accident it kind of is funny.

  7. Shane,
    I don't think you are quite grasping what he is saying, it looks like you are getting defensive and exploiting an opportunity to attack a team you dislike ( the flyers). If you've played hockey before you could understand his theory. You see it countless times every game. There are certain players on each team whose role is that of an agitator and physical player. It's their job to stir things up and hit anything that moves, think Zach Rinaldo, Dan Carcillo, Raffi Torres, David Clarkson and others of the like. They roam the ice as heat seeking missiles and when they see the opportunity to deliver a big hit to sway the momentum of a game, especially to a key opposing player, they are like sharks with blood in the water. They will often instinctively venture outside the rules deliver such a hit. They see that they are going to miss a chance to play their role in the game and will stick out a leg, an elbow or a stick to see that their job is done. Cooke saw karlsson in the corner and said to himself," this is their best player, I'm going to make him think twice about going into the corner next time." When the defensemen eluded him he made a split second reaction to adjust so that karlsson would not go Unpunished. I know it happens all the time, but for the sake of the product and the safety of the players, these plays need to go. I am left scratching my head that the league did not even review the play.
    Also to say that James Neil would be drawing less of an uproar I sn't a valid point by this fans standards. I vividly recall Neil delivering deliberate blows to key opposing players heads in last springs playoffs.
    Step back and look at this as a fan of the sport as Dillon clearly is, not as a penguin fan or as someone who hates the flyers. By saying this piece is biased and garbage because of where the authors loyalties are as a fan, is admitting to being biased yourself.

  8. It seems that if he were really losing his balance his foot would have gone a million ways but straight down-you would expect him to compensate with leaning and coming down even wider with his left leg or bouncing off more horizontally and pivoting to the ground on that planted leg or placing his skate behind himself to catch his balance. Instead he has the balance to not only bring that leg down, put also push off and skate away. Granted, everything looks a lot worse in slow motion. But his left leg movement looks far too isolated from the rest of his body, and he isn't showing any characteristic weight shifting, especially at the pelvis, to suggest that his left leg needs to come down immediately to maintain balance. I don't think he meant to cut his achilles but it's certainly a dirty intent.
    As for the argument that players go in with their leg up to pin a player to the board, sure I've seen it happen where there knee comes up a little bit and they almost buffer themselves for the hit that way. But almost every time i've seen it the checking player bounces back horizontally and has to place their skate behind them to regain their balance.
    And I agree with Dillon, in that it seems like every announcer and reporter is wincing when they say it was an 'accident' as if they don't' want to admit that there are still goons in hockey.

    1. if you watch his knee instead of his foot, you will see it sliding of of karlsons backside changing the angle of his skate! it was his use of his knee to hold him to the boards that caused this. it was an accident! i,ve played hockey my whole life, i,m noww 56 years olod, so iv,e seen this happen a lot. not with the same result. but a lot!

  9. matt cooke is a dirty player. he should face serious penalties/possible banning for continually hurting players and putting them in danger. he is not good for hockey or the nhl's image. he is a poor role model too.

  10. i think it is high time they get that brain dead fuck out of the league.
    i would love to see someone damage him so bad he can never hope to be in any league give him a taste of his own medicine. ugly prick i actually hate that meathead

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