Cooke won't receive further discipline for hit
By Rob Rossi
Published: Sunday, June 2, 2013, 11:18 p.m.
Matt Cooke plans to keep hitting.
He is confident referees will allow that despite past transgressions — including a signature hit from 2011 on now-inactive Boston center Marc Savard — that have turned his every collision into a controversy.
“I don't believe in that at all,” Cooke said Sunday of his reputation preceding him. “I think referees are trying to do the best job to call the game.”
Cooke will not face supplemental discipline from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit on Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final Saturday. He caught McQuaid from behind and drove him headfirst in the end-zone boards.
Cooke received a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct (ejection). There is no minor penalty for checking from behind.
All hits are reviewed by player safety, which deemed the penalty on the ice appropriate and sufficient.
Cooke said — and video replays confirmed — that McQuaid turned his head before the hit.
McQuaid, who has a history of concussions, returned to play in Game 1, though he initially stayed face-down on the ice after Cooke's hit.
“I knew who I was playing,” McQuaid said Sunday. “I wasn't exactly sure who was coming down. I knew a guy was coming down, that guys were going to be forechecking and stuff like that.”
Players attempting to draw penalties by intentionally taking blindside hits is troubling for many within the hockey world, including those within player safety and the coaching fraternity.
“I've said it before, and I'm certainly not going to change my mind because it happened to one of our players, but I've always said that we have to educate our players to not put themselves in vulnerable positions,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said Sunday.
“And I'm not talking necessarily about (Saturday) night; I'm talking about those kinds of things that are happening and right now. Because the rule says you can't hit somebody from behind. Sometimes we take advantage of that rule, and it's dangerous.”
Cooke has been labeled dangerous, reckless and even a predator — and those charges were levied again on social media sites in the wake of his hit on McQuaid.
Cooke has been suspended five times, four since joining the Penguins for the 2008-09 season. However, he has avoided supplemental discipline since March 2011, when a blindside hit on Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers led to a 17-game suspension.
He vowed to change his ways after that hit, which incensed Penguins majority co-owner Mario Lemieux, who has advocated elimination of all blindside hits.
This past January, player safety senior vice president Brenden Shanahan, told the Tribune-Review that Cooke had proven himself a model as a reformed player.
“He has a past history, and everybody can have their opinion on it,” Shanahan said. “But I think you have to say Matt Cooke's done a great job of showing that player can change the way they play and be effective.”
Shanahan declined comment Sunday.
Though he has only one point through 11 games this postseason, Cooke is a pivotal presence for the Penguins, who plan to consistently hit Boston defensemen in an attempt gain puck possession and ultimately wear down the Bruins.
Cooke, in less than six minutes, finished with three of the Penguins' 34 hits in Game 1.
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