Y!’s Puck Daddy contributing Author Sean Leahy broke the news over Twitter and the NHL quickly confirmed that Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke will be suspended 2 games and will be fined $29,268.30 (yeah nice round number there) for his high hit on Rangers rookie Artem Anisimov Saturday night at the Igloo. The hit came in the third period and set off a bout of chippy play that saw Cooke eventually drop ‘em with Ryan Callahan.
Was the play dirty? Absolutely. Cooke visibly leaves his feet to make the hit and makes contact with Anisimov’s head. No one is saying Cookie didn’t make a bad play I wrote previously thatI expected this to be 1game + a fine and that was largely based off of Tuomo Ruutu. Cooke is a prior offender as he also laid a hit to the head on Carolina forward Scott Walker last year and received supplementary discipline from the league. Its those two words, “prior offender” that are at the heart of the argument. Ruutu was a prior offender too.
In order for the league to take an increasingly harsher view of a player’s misconduct they have to be labeled a prior offender. The only way in which that happens is to have sanctions brought down on you from on high (Colin Campbell the NHL Discipline man). Alexander Ovechkin (slew foot earlier this year and this past weekend when he boarded Patrick Kaleta) and and Mike Richards (destroying Booth in the head) have walked this year for things that, had Matt Cooke done them, he would have served time and paid money for. I will refer you to the chart to the left on superstars and infractions brought to you by Down Goes Brown. (The only superstar suspended often is Chris Pronger) If Cooke’s last name was Richards, Ovechkin, Malkin, Crosby, Staal, Iginla, or any of the other top jersey sellers in the league his image would remain untarnished. However Matt is a 3rd/4th line grinder who is paid to be an agitator.
This year has shown the league has zero consistent measure for player discipline apart from market value of the player. Ruutu hit Darcy Tucker within one day of Richard’s head shot on David Booth and got three games while Richards was showered in excuses from people who said Booth should have been more aware. As funny as Down Goes Brown’s Chart may be, it is also sad in the end, because it is close to the truth. The level of outrage that is coming from the league’s loyal fans is reaching a fever pitch and only grows exponentially worse each time one of these suspension and fine combinations is dished out to a player who isn’t a superstar while the league’s elite is given a pass to be as destructive and dirty as they please.
John Tortorella hit it on the head last night and I agree it is time for the league to set in stone some rules regarding head shots so that this comedy from the NHL on who deserves what punishment can end. It’s time to set a standard. If Matt Cooke deserves two games and a fine for the hit last night then Ovechkin deserved three for his hit on Kaleta. Mike Richards deserved something for his blow to Booth’s head. Gary Bettman, it’s on you and Campbell to do the right thing for player safety and consistency. I have no problem with the actions taken on Cooke, just the lack of action on players nominated for end of year awards.
About the Author: Pittsburgh Penguins/NHL Hockey Blogger, Father, Husband, IT Geek, former player, and NHL 11 EASHL addict. Oz has been cited for his work on XM Radio's NHL Home Ice, Penguins HD Radio, and Y!'s Puck Daddy Blog. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter.com/ozman51 Xbox: ozman51