For Matt Cooke of the Minnesota Wild Hockey Club, seven is his lucky number. That’s because – after he injured Colorado Avalanche player Tyson Barrie with a knee-on-knee hit in Game 3 of the recent Avalanche/Wild Stanley Cup Playoffs – Cooke …
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For Matt Cooke of the Minnesota Wild Hockey Club, seven is his lucky number. That’s because – after he injured Colorado Avalanche player Tyson Barrie with a knee-on-knee hit in Game 3 of the recent Avalanche/Wild Stanley Cup Playoffs – Cooke received only a 7-game suspension for ending Barrie’s season.
Much has already been said about Cooke’s behavior, and not just from us Avalanche fans. Sportscasters around the country reacted quickly and with disgust. Cooke was reviled as a thug, a cheap-shot artist, a repeat-offending dirty player who has ended careers, not just seasons. Even the Minneapolis Star Tribune said, “Cooke’s return to goonish roots should be punished harshly.”
But for Matt Cooke, who received only a two-minute minor for kneeing, lucky seven was on his side. Suspended for just seven games by the NHL, Cooke will be skating for the Wild by Game 4 in their best-of-seven series with the Chicago Blackhawks. Colorado lost to Minnesota in Game 7 of the Avs/Wild series.
I like to read online comments for news articles because they are a fascinating blend of articulate reasoning and blowhard gesticulating, with everything else in between. What I find most interesting about comments for this incident is the comparison of Cooke’s thuggery to that of other players, including Patrick Roy and Erik Johnson. However, what these commenters are referring to is drop-your-gloves fighting, not intentional acts meant to injure another player.
What strikes me, though, is the use of such comparisons to justify leniency for Cooke. This is somewhat like saying that because a kid in the third period got away with throwing spitballs at the teacher, the kid throwing spitballs in fifth period should also be spared of consequences. Of course, in Matt Cooke’s case, Tyson Barrie’s injury is a far more serious circumstance.
Justice, of any kind, should not and cannot be predicated on the theory that because others haven’t been punished for their actions, future perpetrators should escape appropriate consequences. And, based on a 17-game suspension he received in 2011 for elbowing (which was also a dirty hit), Cooke’s current suspension isn’t anywhere near appropriate for his knee-on-knee hit to Tyson Barrie.
Some say Cooke should be out as long as Barrie is out. That makes sense in the regular season, but with the Avs out of the Stanley Cup, such a suspension is now moot. Others say that because Cooke is a habitual offender, he should be out of the League altogether. I can’t disagree.
But my other major concern about Cooke’s slap on the wrist is that now his prescribed suspension can be used to excuse punishment for the next cheap shot, and the next, and the next. Rather than drawing a line in the sand as a warning to other players about what the League won’t tolerate, the NHL has set a dangerous precedent by doling out a sentence that’s no real deterrent when the stakes are Stanley-Cup high.
I despise Matt Cooke and I detest what he did, on purpose, to Tyson Barrie. And because of a mere 7-game suspension for Matt Cooke, what amounts to little more than an admonition can become ammunition on the ice for others intent on injury.
And there’s nothing lucky about that.
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