Monday, March 21, 2011

NHL gives Matt Cooke a shot to the head

The cheer you hear across Canada tonight is from hockey fans who finally have some confidence that the NHL may be taking a hard stance against hits to the head. Earlier today Pittsburgh Pnguin forward Matt Cooke was suspended for the rest of the season (10 games) as well as the first round of the playoffs. This is not an incredibly harsh penalty but it is also not a slap on the wrist.

If Matt Cooke with his rap sheet doesn't deserve over 10 games then who in the NHL would? This was in fact an easy decision for the league. A repeat offender that was not one of his team's top player. Had the offense been committed by Chris Pronger there is no question the penalty would have been considerably lighter despite the fact that Pronger's rap sheet is much longer. Dany Heatley's head shot last week was much more serious and it earned just a 2 game suspension so don't be sending out congratulatory letters to the NHL just yet. Let's see if the NHL can follow this up with another message-sending suspension the next time it happens (likely later this week the way the game is being played).

In a way Cooke does get off easy. He will forfeit just over $200,000 in salary for the 10 regular season game suspension but nothing for the playoff games missed because players are fully paid up at the end of the regular season and do not get paid in the playoffs.

Probably the best sign was the response from Penguin GM Ray Shero.

“The suspension is warranted because that’s exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game. Head shots have no place in hockey. We’ve told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message.”

For once the game itself takes precedent over team solidarity.

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