Senators fans hold 'Hate Fest' for Pens' Matt Cooke
Ottawa loses, Jets win, just one point separating teams in playoff race
The boos rang out at Scotiabank Place on Thursday for Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, captain of the Capitals and one of the best players in the league.
They filled the arena on Saturday as fans of both the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs took aim at key players on the other side.
But Monday, the Red Scarf Union, a group of diehard Senators fans, took the vitriol to the next level against a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The "Matt Cooke Hate Fest" was organized to show fans' displeasure for the Penguins forward, who has a reputation for making dangerous plays, who some believe intentionally hurt Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson on Feb. 13.
"I saw him wincing in pain and (thought), 'Oh no not Eric Karlsson, the number one defenceman in the league is down and out,'" said David Kerr.
Sens' owner thought Cooke cut Karlsson on purpose
"As a diehard fan you go into a slight depression."
Kerr said he doesn’t think Cooke intentionally cut Karlsson’s Achilles tendon when his skate came down on his left leg after finishing a check, but his history of multiple suspensions sets him apart.
"(We want to) show that we didn’t appreciate his reckless play against Karlsson that resulted in his injury," Kerr said.
Unlike the fans, though, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk did believe Cooke cut Karlsson on purpose. In late March, he hired forensic experts to analyze the injury and video to determine if the slice was intentional.
Chants, face paint and 'WANTED' poster planned
The Red Scarf Union said expected a group of about 70 people to chant, paint their faces and hold up a two-metre tall "wanted" poster of Cooke.
Coincidentally, the rally was scheduled on the same night as Canadian Forces Appreciation Night at Scotiabank Place.
Karlsson, who recently resumed practising with the team only about two months after the injury, didn’t say much when asked about the "Hate Fest."
"That’s something they’re going to have to stand for," he said, sighing.
Kerr said they wanted the rally to be as much about boosting Karlsson’s spirits as it was trying to throw Cooke off his game.
"Erik, we love you we're here to protect you," he said. "We have your back. We're not to let any other players run you over."
But there wasn't much cheering, as Ottawa lost and the Winnipeg Jets won. The Senators are now tied for seventh place and just one point ahead of the ninth-place Jets.