Oilers players support Cooke suspension

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:52 PM ET

NASHVILLE Tom Gilbert knows what its like to be at the receiving end of a headshot.

As a rookie, the Edmonton Oilers defenceman was knocked unconscious on a hit by Jody Shelley, who was with the Columbus Blue Jackets at the time.

Shelleys hit was considered clean, unlike Matt Cookes cheap shot that earned the Pittsburgh Penguins winger a suspension through the first round of the playoffs.

I think its important for the league to send that message, especially against repeat offenders, said Gilbert. They should continue to increase suspensions if its happening over and over with the same guy, there should be repercussions for it. There is no need for that in this game. The game is faster, guys are bigger and stronger and its a more physical game and there is really no need for stuff like that.

Cooke has a reputation for perhaps being the dirtiest player in the league and had been suspended on four previous occasions prior to Mondays disciplinary hearing.

I think he got what he deserved, said Nashville Predators centre Jerred Smithson. Hes a repeat offender and something like that is a dangerous play. It wasnt like the guy turned into the hit or anything. It was an elbow to the head and I think the league got it right.

Hope around the game is that harshness of the suspension sends a message throughout the league. The length of the suspension also sets a guideline for similar offences.

I think that physical part of the game has to be there, its a major part of hockey, but theres a fine line, Smithson said. You have to play the game on the edge, but be careful not to go over it. I think it will maybe give a lot of guys a bit of a wakeup call.

Considering the number of incidents Cooke has been involved in throughout his career, its obvious he has difficulty identifying the line.

However, according to Oilers rugged defenceman Theo Peckham, while the line can sometimes be blurred, it comes down to respecting an opponent.

Obviously theyre trying to crack down on hits like that, and hes had some issues before and theyre trying to get it out of the game, Peckham said. Its tough. As a physical player myself, there are going to be times when you have incidental contact to the head. In those situations I understand that the league is going to do something about it. I understand its kind of the hot topic right now, so its something that you have to watch out for.

I think anything that looks like its blatant, like you did it on purpose, it looks like theyre really going to crack down on it.

Unfortunately, regardless of how severe the punishments, Peckham believes there will continue to be those who let emotion get in the way of common sense.

There are guys out there that dont care, Peckham said. I play the game on the edge also, but Im not out there trying to hurt anybody. Obviously because of the way I do play, it sometimes gives off that image, but its all about the respect for other players. I try not to hit guys from behind, I try not to get my stick up or my elbows up, but at the same time, you have to be on that edge and sometimes in a game, during the heat of the battle, you cross the line.

But its good that if guys cross the line, theyre going to crack down on it. Its good to see that theyre trying to protect us.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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