Matt Cooke Must Go.

For the past three years, I honestly believed oft-suspended NHL forward Matt Cooke was a changed man.

Thirty-six months after receiving a season-ending suspension for elbowing New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the head, Cooke seemed to clean up his act. A player with a history of dirty play and five suspensions on his resume, Cooke earned plaudits for subsequently abandoning his dangerous style, becoming an effective checking line forward.

Ottawa Senators owner Eugen Melnyk’s claims last season that Cooke’s accidentally cutting Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson’s Achilles tendon with his skate was a deliberate attempt to injure were roundly, and rightly, rejected. I was among those who defended Cooke and my opinion hasn’t changed that it was an accident. For me, Cooke had successfully changed his ways. I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Dirty players like Matt Cooke have no place in the NHL.

Dirty players like Matt Cooke have no place in the NHL.

And then came his deliberate knee-on-knee hit on Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie this past week. In that instant, Cooke erased nearly three years of accrued good will, earning a seven-game suspension.

Following his suspension for kneeing Barrie, Cooke claimed it wasn’t his intent to injure the Avs defenseman and was merely trying to finish his check. He blamed it on the intensity of playoff hockey, reminding everyone he’s been a changed man since the McDonagh hit.

Bullshit.

His actions over the past year prove otherwise. There was his boarding of Boston’s Adam McQuaid in last year’s playoffs,  kneeing Dallas’s Valeri Nichushkin in March, followed by a late hit on Edmonton’s Sam Gagner.

As ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun observed, the Barrie suspension is the sixth of Cooke’s career, for a total of 34 games, plus he’s been fined four times.

Cooke’s dirty hit on Barrie wasn’t an accident or a slip-up, but a move consistent with his style of play for most of his career. Fines and suspensions did nothing to change his ways.

Sorry, “Cookie Monster” (as some pundits and fans call him), but I ain’t buyin’ it. For whatever reason, you just can’t help yourself from deliberately attempting to injure opponents.

Thanks to Cooke’s actions, Barrie’s season is likely done. He’s out between four-to-six weeks with a knee injury. The best that can be said is he didn’t suffer a worse fate. I’m referring, of course, to Cooke’s blindside head shot on Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard over four years ago, which was the beginning of the end of Savard’s career.

Cooke had an opportunity to change his ways. For a while, it looked like he had. Fans and pundits believed he reformed.  I certainly did. After the Barrie hit (and those upon McQuaid, Nichushkin and Gagner), it’s apparent he not only hasn’t changed, but has no intention of doing so.

Matt Cooke contributes nothing but unnecessary mayhem. He’s a black mark on the NHL game. A seven-game suspension for deliberately injuring Tyson Barrie was laughable. He deserves is a lifetime ban. Players like him have no business in the NHL.

Matt Cooke must go.

6 Comments

  1. I have always believed that the incident with Karlsson was purposeful. And I continue to do so. A leopard like Cooke doesn’t change its spots. He’s a professional athlete and a highly proficient skater. He knew exactly what he was doing in that instance. Cooke is a disgrace to the game and should be banned for life. He represents everything that is bad about hockey and he does nothing but distract attention from the good aspects of the game. Hopefully he will find himself out of an NHL job very soon.

    • I was never convinced it was an accident either. I can’t understand why fans and others have continued to give him the benefit of the doubt. His long record of reckless behaviour speaks for itself and it should have / could have been dealt with a long time ago. I hope this doesn’t have a long term effect on Barrie’s career like it has with some of his other victims.

  2. I love how so many people have suddenly gone on the offensive towards Matt Cooke after this hit. The same people who for three years gave him the benefit of the doubt. Yes, the hit was bad, but Cooke has been a much cleaner player for these last few years. He plays on the edge hockey. The type of “good ole hockey” that everyone seems to love and now he gets crucified once again. He’s no different than many aggressive players out there. The type of player that fans thrive on seeing.

    Let’s take a quick look at Raffi Torres – another bad boy because of his style of play. Watch any of the San Jose/Los Angelese series and he makes several borderline hits every game. Yet every time he makes one of those devastating hits, the “experts” love him. All it will take is one slip up from him, and he’ll be ostracized just like Cooke is now.

    And for what? Playing the game the way that people want him to?

    Everyone better sit back and start thinking about how they want hockey to be played. If you want to see good hard hitting, be prepared for the occasional cheap shot by these guys who play this style. The game happens so fast and things change in a heartbeat. Yes, Cooke stuck his knee out to hit Barrie, but on,y because Barrie shifted at the last minute and this would have been a reaction from Cooke to still make a hit. He had what, 1/2 of a second to make the decision?? Before you make him the villain, please take a bit more than that 1/2 of a second to make your decision people.

    • See but that’s the whole point…that line that people speak of crossing. Some people like Cooke or Torres and you think the line is between a finishing a check on a suspecting player or finishing a player…ie take out the player.

      When you look at the types of plays both these players make, it’s usually against a player in a vulnerable position where he can’t defend himself. The difference is players like the two mentioned, think it’s ok to take out that player since that player ‘should know better’ where as other physical players know not to or hit them in a way that it will not injure. The hitting aspect of the game isn’t to there as a green light to injure opposing players but to physically drain them. Guys like Cooke look to injure and that’s why they need to get.

  3. The actions of these players won’t change until the goon mentality fans wake up and honestly look at the game. To pick Torres as another guy to defend shows how ignorant you are regarding hockey. Think back to Torres leaving his feet and launching himself into the face of Hossa or was it Seabrook? Two different players, same result. To suggest that removing the predatorial players will ruin the game is also completely absurd. Quit making excuses for stupid dangerous players.
    There are tons of players who play a rough and tough game in this league and do so without attempting to injure people. Both of the above mentioned players do not play that way.
    Anytime you leave your feet or aim for a guys head in order to “finish your check,” you have crossed the line.
    What they really need is for one of these guys who has his career ended start a lawsuit against the player and the league.
    Watch how fast everything changes.

  4. The only caveat to any of these arguments is that they are usually applied to the blue collar players on the third and fourth line like Cooke, Torres, Lapierre, etc., and not to habitual offender-type superstars like Ovechkin and Perry who consistently give out questionable hits and stick jabs and don’t get the treatment the less well-known players get. And who puts out their fighters against the first line players to police the situation? If the league is serious, it needs to make calls consistently across the board. If Ovie has to sit out awhile for being a chaotic wrecking ball out there, so be it. Yes, send a message and take out repeat offenders for a season or two, but start penalizing consistently and fairly.