MONTREAL – Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Kristopher Letang says teammate Matt Cooke deserved to have the NHL’s hammer drop on him for his latest on-ice cheapshot.
“He’s an important player on our team but even he knew what was coming after what he did,” Letang told QMI Agency this week.
Cooke was suspended for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for his elbow to the head of Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh on Sunday.
Letang says Cooke apologized to his teammates when the team plane landed in Detroit on Sunday evening.
“Once were at the hotel in Detroit, Matt apologized in front of everyone and admitted he would have to change his playing style,” Letang said.
“I think he’ll reflect on things because of the suspension he got.”
Letang said Cooke hurt his own team by taking a shot at McDonagh.
“His penalty cost us the game – an important game against a division rival. Matt has to face the consequences and the team shouldn’t be paying the price.”
A repeat offender with five suspensions, Cooke has earned the reputation as the NHL’s most notorious headhunter.
Cooke has said he's ready to clean up his act, and Letang says he’s willing to give his teammate the benefit of the doubt.
“Matt is not a guy with bad intentions. No one in our locker room has problems with him.”
Cooke’s latest penalty will cost him $219,000 in lost wages.
The NHL doled out the stiff sentence as it deals with intense criticism over headshots that have taken out several players, including the league’s poster boy, Sidney Crosby.