ShareThis Page

Ottawa owner slams Pens' Cooke

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 7:03 p.m.
Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) limps off the ice as a team trainer arrives to help him after Karlsson collided with Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Matt Cooke during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Karlsson did not return to the game. The Penguins won 4-2. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The complaints about Penguins left winger Matt Cooke rose another rung up the Ottawa Senators' ladder, as well as to another decibel level.

In an interview with the Ottawa Sun, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk bitterly complained about Cooke's collision Wednesday with Erik Karlsson, the Senators' star defenseman. Cooke's skate lacerated Karlsson's Achilles tendon, likely ending his season.

The NHL decided the collision was accidental and issued no punishment, but Melnyk felt differently.

“This guy should be kicked ... he doesn't belong in the league,” Melnyk said of Cooke. “He belongs somewhere where the goons play. Get him in the Central League. He can be a $60,000-a-year guy playing pickup hockey there.”

Melnyk similarly called for Penguins defenseman Kris Letang to be banned after a 2010 check injured the shoulder of Ottawa center Jason Spezza.

“He's got one purpose,” Melnyk continued about Cooke. “I remember when this happened with Spezza. I said, ‘If these are the rules, I just want to know.' We'll play with the same rules. Make sure you have one or two goons whose job is to do this either intentionally or unintentionally. I'm OK with it. Just tell me. I play by the rules. I'm just shocked an organization would do this.”

Melnyk also said, “I'm very upset. Actually, I'm more than upset. I'm outraged that, in this day and age, this continues. Whether it's accidental or not, that's not our job to judge. That's why the NHL is there to assess it.”

The outburst forced the Penguins to respond to the matter for a second consecutive day, as it was the main topic at the morning skate before Friday night's game against the Jets at the MTS Centre.

Coach Dan Bylsma reiterated his empathy for Ottawa — “I feel the pain of the Senators for losing a great player in the game” — but continued to defend Cooke.

“There are people making comments who haven't seen him play for the last two years,” Bylsma said when asked about Melnyk. “There's no question he's made an adjustment. You can see it in his game, in numerous hits that he's had this year, where he's adjusted. I don't think people really watch that closely. It's easier to jump on and talk about previous history.”

Cooke's response was similarly muted.

“I'm sorry Mr. Melnyk feels that way,” he said. “I understand the position he's in, and it's not easy.”

Cooke said he reached out to Karlsson through a text message but hadn't heard back as of Friday morning.

“Whether or not he responds to me, I understand,” Cooke said. “At the end of the day, it was a freak, unfortunate accident.”

Cooke was asked if he found it unfair to be labeled for his past.

“I've never thought it would stop or end over the course of my career. I'm trying to hide that persona, and I'm prepared to do it for the long haul. I was prepared for it from the media. … People are entitled to their own opinions, and they'll have their own, regardless of what I do.”

Dejan Kovacevic is a sports columnist for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.