Well done, NHL. Message sent.
Penguins left wing Matt Cooke today was suspended for 10 regular-season games and the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs following his blind side elbow to the head that felled Rangers rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh.
As he should have given that he is a major proponent of banning head shots, Penguins general manager Ray Shero, supported the decision.
Cooke was assessed a five-minute elbowing penalty and a game misconduct for the head shot, which occurred at 4:36 of the third period. McDonagh eventually returned to the game, which the Rangers won 5-2, but did not practice with the team today, “as a precaution,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella, who declined to discuss the incident. “That’s for the league to decide.”
"Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position," said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. "This isn't the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response." Cooke will forfeit $219,512.20 in salary.
McDonagh, 21, said after the game that he “didn’t see him coming at all”, was examined by trainers and doctors and flew back to New York with the team. “He’ll be fine,” said Tortorella.
The suspension, which came after a hearing with NHL Hockey Operations in Toronto, was Cooke’s fourth in the past three seasons with the Penguins. He was suspended four games for a blindside hit on Fedor Tyutin of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 8, a hit that violated Rule 48, which was instituted this season. His blindside assault on Bruins C Marc Savard in March 2010 caused a concussion, and although Savard tried to comeback this season, he was forced to the sidelines.
A check to the head of the Rangers’ Artem Anisimov, on Nov. 29, 2009, triggered a two-game suspension. When McDonagh appeared to be okay after Sunday’s game, Anisimov joked, “Welcome to the club.”
Cooke’s lack of judgment puts the Penguins organization, which bemoaned the hits that caused a concussion to captain Sidney Crosby, who has missed two months, in an awkward position. At league general managers’ meetings last week in Boca Raton, Shero voiced support to ban all headshots. Before the meetings, Mario Lemieux, the majority co-owner of the Penguins, sent a letter to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman proposing more discipline for repeat offenders and increased fines to teams.
Cooke, with 14 goals, has proven to be a good two-way player when he maintains discipline. Takes a slice out of the Pens, already wounded by injuries.
But it had to happen.
“With Ryan being one of my closest friends and being my teammate, we’re looking for the league to take actions,” Derek Stepan said after practice today, “We definitely think there should be something.”
“Obviously he’ll get a few games, no question," said Henrik Lundqvist. "He’s done it before. It looked pretty bad when I saw it.”