matt cooke wildAs the National Hockey League released their video explanation of the seven game suspension of Matt Cooke of the Minnesota Wild, the hockey community seems to be nodding their heads, as if to say they knew all along that Cooke couldn’t keep his nose clean. His last supplementary discipline though was in March, 2011, which shows that he could play a clean game if his occupation was on the line—which it had been when he was playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Perhaps when they did not re-sign him in the summer of 2013, he decided to revert to his old ways. It is hard to say. He signed with the Wild on July 5, 2013, to a three-year, $7.5 million contract.

Cooke’s hit on Tyson Barrie of the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, April 21 at 2:02 of the second period resulted in just a minor penalty for him, while Barrie struggled first to the bench and then went down the tunnel, not returning to the game. Later it was announced that Barrie had suffered an MCL injury and would be out for a least four to six weeks. This is a terrible blow to the Avalanche. Head coach Patrick Roy referred to Barrie, the night of the injury, as “our best offensive defenseman.”

The video explanation released by the NHL’s Department of Player safety explained the suspension:

“As the video shows, Barrie makes a pass to a teammate in the neutral zone, as Cooke approaches in the opposite direction. Cooke is leading with his left knee. After Barrie releases the puck, Cooke continues in this posture, further extends his knee and makes contact with Barrie’s left knee. This is kneeing.

“The play is entirely in front of Cooke from the moment he steps on the ice and begins striding towards Barrie well before impact is made The onus is on Cooke to ensure that any check he attempts is executed legally and through the core of Barrie’s body. There is no question that, seeing Cooke coming at him, Barrie takes evasive action and moves to his right in an attempt to avoid contact. While this evasive action might have worsened the extent of the injury, it should have been entirely predictable to Cooke that Barrie would attempt to avoid contact. It is important to note that Cooke is leading with his knee, a part of the body with which he cannot legally deliver a check. Additionally upon seeing that Barrie has moved to avoid this check, instead of avoiding the possibility of illegal contact, Cooke further extends his left leg to ensure contact.

“Kneeing infractions are evaluated based on the degree of their severity, many do not rise to the level of supplemental discipline. In this case the distance traveled with an extended knee, the further extension of the knee to ensure contact, the force of the impact and the resulting injury to an opponent merits supplemental discipline. These factors, combined with Cooke’s history warrant a more significant penalty than the most recent suspensions that have been imposed for kneeing.

“To summarize:

    • This was kneeing
    • Barrie suffered a significant injury as a result of this hit
    • Cooke is not considered a repeat offender under the CBA as he has not been subjected to supplementary discipline since March of 2011. However, Cooke has been fined or suspended nine times during his 15-season NHL career

“The Department of Player Safety has suspended Matt Cooke for seven games.”

Though Cooke has not had supplementary discipline in the past 38 months, whatever character he felt he had built has been completely undone with this latest incident. This hit was intended to injury and seven games does not seem to be enough to impress on Cooke that he cannot continue to play in this manner. Though he has not used his stick as a weapon, ala Marty McSorley, or lost his cool and punched an opponent in such a severe manner that his career was ended, and his day-to-day life was forever altered as Todd Bertuzzi did, one has to wonder just how many horrific injuries Cooke will be allowed to make before he is expelled from the league, rather than suspended for just a few games.

A family historian by profession, Rhonda R. McClure has loved hockey since she was a child in New Hampshire. Any opportunity to combine her love of writing, hockey and research is something she looks forward to with much enthusiasm. She's been accused of seeking out shinny games when there are no other hockey events taking place. She is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research. Follow her on Twitter at @HockeyMaven1917.

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