The National Hockey League today held a disciplinary hearing for forward Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins following yesterday’s elbow to the head of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (video of the hit). After hours of waiting for the decision Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reported that the NHL suspended Cooke for the last 10 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for his cheapshot.
From the NHL statement:
"Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position," said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. "This isn't the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response."
This is the kind of punishment that the NHL needed to give in order to send a message that they were serious about eliminating headshots, preventing concussions and dealing with repeat offenders. I have been critical before of the inconsistency and at some points lack of stiff punishment by the NHL, but this one is right on the money. You cannot argue that a suspension of a minimum of 14 and maximum of 17 games is too lenient for the league and will be equally as tough for the Penguins to claim that it is too harsh a penalty especially given the outspoken response of Penguins owner Mario Lemieux earlier this season.
What a punishment like this also does is it costs the Penguins as well because they are hurt for the stretch run and into the playoffs with a player who has been important to their team. Until the team’s really are hurt in the standings and the wallet by this kind of behavior it will not end.