NHL sends a message

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:33 PM ET

The general consensus is that Matt Cooke got what he deserved.

After weeks of talking about the importance of taking headshots and cheapshots out of the game, the NHL acted swiftly — and correctly — when they suspended the Pittsburgh Penguins winger for the final 10 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs.

“Guys are upset (with the hit) and rightfully so — we want to keep the game as pure as possible,” said Moose centre Marco Rosa. “It’s unfortunate it seems to be the same guys (delivering the dirty hits). You try to look out for guys that are dangerous, you have to be aware of them but there are times when you are trying to make a good play and when guys aren’t abiding by the rules, some guys are going to cheapshot you.

“(The NHL) has done something (with the suspension) that hopefully opens some guys eyes.”

While it’s nice to see Cooke step up and take responsibility for his actions and even apologize to New York Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh, so far his words have been a little hollow when it comes to cleaning up his act.

Until he stops delivering the type of checks that put other players in danger, Cooke isn’t likely to get the benefit of the doubts from either teammates or opponents.

Sure, Cooke got hit in the wallet but since the Penguins are already in injury trouble with Sidney Crosby still on the shelf with no return date available and Evgeni Malkin already done for the season, his absence from the first round could be critical.

If the Penguins lose in the first round, Cooke will have to live with that during the off-season.

“It could kill their playoff hopes even that much more — it’s not just something where you’re just hurting yourself and losing a paycheck, you’re hurting your team,” said Moose forward Jason Jaffray. “As much as Matt Cooke gets a bad rap for head-hunting and stuff like that, he still helps out his team every night. He skates well, he has some skill, too, and he chips in offensively. So it’s not just tough for him, it’s tough for the Pittsburgh Penguins.”

And that’s the whole point of holding players responsible for their actions.

Jaffray actually had Cooke as a teammate with the Vancouver Canucks a few years ago and it seems like not a lot has changed for him since those days.

“I was watching the game (on TV) and the first thing I thought (Cooke) was a repeat offender and has been suspended a few times for the same kind of hit,” said Jaffray. “The league made the right call. If you’re trying to send a message, (Cooke) is a guy that’s not getting it right now so something had to be done.”

Moose head coach Claude Noel views the Cooke hit as the exact type of hit the NHL must remove from the game entirely.

“They took a stand in the right direction,” said Noel. “(Cooke) has got to look in the mirror and say ‘what am I doing?’ Really. I thought it was a cheap hit. Was else can I say. He put it out on a platter. That’s the fifth time he’s been suspended. I think everyone can clearly see what’s gone on and the punishment was deserved.”

Noel is hopeful the length of the suspension will help other players think twice about doing something similar.

“Players aren’t in it to hurt each other, but they’ve got to clean this up a bit and I think the players know it,” said Noel.

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca twitter.com/WiebeSunSports


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