PITTSBURGH PA - FEBRUARY 8: Matt Cooke #24 of the Pittsburgh Penguins checks Fedor Tyutin #51 of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first period on February 8 2011 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Cooke was assessed a five-minute major penalty for charging on the play. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
After delivering a dangerous hit to Jackets D-man Fedor Tyutin, Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins was suspended for four games, starting with their match against the LA Kings on Thursday. The disciplinary hearing for Cooke was originally scheduled for Thursday, but was apparently bumped up so the Pens would be aware of his status before having to prepare for a game.
Personally, I'm pleased, but not too pleased. It was a dirty hit, and Cooke damn well deserved a suspension (he also deserved to get tossed last night, but the refs blew that), but on the other hand, I think the NHL had a chance to make a real statement about hits like this, and they failed to do so.
In a year where concussions are on the rise by the commissioner's own admission, what sends a bigger message? Saying you respect player safety and will work to change the culture in a press conference, or taking a guy who delivered a clear and vicious dirty hit, and suspending him for a significant chunk of the remaining regular season?
15-20 games would have made a much bigger statement. As it is, Cooke has to sit for a home game and skip a short road trip. He'll lose some salary, yes, but not that much - roughly $59,000 if I'm doing my math right. Huge for someone like you or I. Kinda small for someome making $1.2 million a year. And what happens when Cooke comes back? Given that he has a pattern of behavior, how long before the next hit that puts someone out of a game, or worse, out of hockey entirely?
I'm glad the NHL chose to enforce the rules here, and to respond to Cooke's actions, but I can't help be left feeling like they've still dropped the ball.