SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers players support Cooke suspension

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:52 PM ET

NASHVILLE — Tom Gilbert knows what it’s 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.

Shelley’s hit was considered clean, unlike Matt Cooke’s cheap shot that earned the Pittsburgh Penguins winger a suspension through the first round of the playoffs.

“I think it’s important for the league to send that message, especially against repeat offenders,” said Gilbert. “They should continue to increase suspensions if it’s 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 it’s 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 Monday’s disciplinary hearing.

“I think he got what he deserved,” said Nashville Predators centre Jerred Smithson. “He’s a repeat offender and something like that is a dangerous play. It wasn’t 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, it’s a major part of hockey, but there’s 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, it’s 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 they’re trying to crack down on hits like that, and he’s had some issues before and they’re trying to get it out of the game,” Peckham said. “It’s 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 it’s kind of the hot topic right now, so it’s something that you have to watch out for.

“I think anything that looks like it’s blatant, like you did it on purpose, it looks like they’re 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 don’t care,” Peckham said. “I play the game on the edge also, but I’m not out there trying to hurt anybody. Obviously because of the way I do play, it sometimes gives off that image, but it’s 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 it’s good that if guys cross the line, they’re going to crack down on it. It’s good to see that they’re trying to protect us.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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