Matt Cooke deserves huge suspension from NHL | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaMatt Cooke deserves huge suspension from NHL

Posted: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | 01:05 PM

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Wild forward Matt Cooke has earned a reputation for targeting opponents with dangerous hits. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Wild forward Matt Cooke has earned a reputation for targeting opponents with dangerous hits. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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Hey, Stephane Quintal, I'll make it easy for you: The rest of the playoffs and 41 games -- half a season -- for Matt Cooke as punishment for his hit on Tyson Barrie.
Hey, Stephane Quintal, I'll make it easy for you: The rest of the playoffs and 41 games -- half a season -- for Matt Cooke.

It's been said a leopard can't change its spots. Can a skunk rid itself of that nasty smell? Apparently not.

Cooke is that skunk. For a while, he seemed to have accomplished the near impossible by changing the reckless style of play that made him one of the most notorious players in NHL history. Early in his career he would target the knees of opponents and later he switched to delivering head shots, but for the past few seasons he toned down his game and was appropriately commended for his efforts.

Cooke insisted he would continue to play an abrasive game, but those hits that were often ruled to be "intent to injure" would stop.

He lied. And now, after six suspensions that resulted in him missing 25 regular-season and seven playoff games, Cooke must pay a huge price for Monday night's indiscretion.

Cooke delivered a vicious knee-on-knee hit to Colorado's Tyson Barrie that resulted in the 22-year-old defenceman suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament that will sideline him for the next four to six weeks.

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Cooke has the option of a phone hearing or an in-person meeting with the NHL. The fact the league has given him the option of meeting in person suggests his impending suspension will be at least five games and probably more.

But five games are not enough. Ten games are not enough. Cooke must be dealt with severely. His choir-boy behavior the past few seasons goes right out the window. It means nothing. He intentionally tries to injure opponents and he must be punished harshly.

The problem facing the NHL is that, according to the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NHL Players' Association, Cooke is not considered a repeat offender. However, the CBC's Elliotte Friedman reported the NHL believes that only applies to fines and not suspensions.

That being the case, Cooke must go down.

This is a guy who targeted Mats Sundin's knee, targeted Milan's Hejduk's knee, took out Eric Cole's knee, sliced Erik Karlsson's Achilles tendon, seriously injured Vinny Lecvalier's knee, nailed Matthew Lombardi in the head, smoked Ryan McDonagh in the head and, perhaps worst of all, drilled Marc Savard in the head on a blind-side hit that led to the Boston Bruins centre retiring prematurely.

Not a repeat offender? Yeah, right!

For as much as I admired Cooke's temporary compliance, his past should not -- must not -- be ignored. To heck with the CBA.

Quite frankly, considering Cooke's numerous hits have been carried out on card-carrying NHLPA members, I do not know how that organization can justifiably come to his defence anymore. The NHLPA should insist the league throw the book at him.

A history of violence

The hit on Barrie was downright ugly. Cooke lined him up, extended his knee and purposely targeted the Avalanche player's knee -- just like he has done so many times before.

This is not entirely about history -- Cooke's or the league's. It's about the now and it's about the future. It's about the NHL continuing to raise its standard for fair and safe play. It's about hammering offenders -- head- and knee-hunters -- with the kind of suspensions that make them and others take notice.

Enough with coming to the defence of the offender.

While Quintal, who replaced Brendan Shanahan as the NHL's head disciplinarian, seems to be in a tough position for a guy just a few weeks on the job, he really isn't. In fact, the opposite is true.

For starters, Quintal will not make this decision on his own. You can bet NHL executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell will have a say in it, as will Bill Daly, the league's deputy commissioner. Heck, commissioner Gary Bettman may even weigh in on this one.

This is an easy decision for all involved with deciding Cooke's punishment. It was Cooke that made it so easy for them. There is no defence for his actions.

In 2012 Raffi Torres was suspended 25 games by the NHL for a head shot that knocked Chicago's Marian Hossa out of the playoffs. Torres missed 13 playoff games, and then, after his suspension was reduced to 21 games during the off-season, he missed the first eight games of the 2012-13 campaign.

Cooke should be suspended for the remainder of the playoffs and for the first 41 games of next season.

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