Monday, March 21, 2011

NHL throws book at Cooke

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The National Hockey League on Monday suspended Pittsburgh  Penguins forward  Matt Cooke for the final 10 games of the regular season plus the entire first round of the playoffs.

Cooke  delivered  an elbow  to  the  side of  the  face  of New  York  Rangers defenseman  Ryan McDonagh at the 4:36 mark of the third period of Sunday's 5-2 Penguins loss. He was given a major for elbowing and a game misconduct.

The  total length of  the penalty will end up lasting between 14 and 17 games, depending on how long Pittsburgh's opening round takes to conclude.

Cooke  will forfeit $219,512.20 in salary, based on the number of games in the season  (82), rather than the number of days (186). The funds automatically go to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

"Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an  opponent  who was  in an  unsuspecting and  vulnerable position," said NHL discipline czar 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."

The  chippy  winger was  suspended four games  without pay by  the NHL back on February  9, after checking Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin from behind in the early stages of Pittsburgh's 4-1 loss one day prior, earning him a major for charging and game misconduct.

This  is  the fifth suspension  levied against  the 32-year-old in his 12-year career.

He  was previously  given  a two-game  ban  in  November, 2009  for  a hit  to the  head  of the  Rangers' Artem  Anisimov, served a  two-game sentence for a blind-side  hit to the head of Carolina's Scott Walker in January of 2009, and was  suspended  two games for  a spearing incident in  2004 when he played for

Cooke  was infamously  spared punishment for a blind-side elbow to the head of Boston Bruins center Marc Savard a little over a year ago.

Savard suffered a Grade 2 concussion as a result of the hit, and his career is now  in doubt due to post-concussion syndrome. Outcry over that incident was a significant  factor in  the NHL's  instituting Rule  48, which  states that  a lateral  or blind-side hit to an opponent's head is not permitted and draws an
automatic major penalty and game misconduct.

"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," said Penguins  general  manager Ray  Shero in a  statement issued Monday afternoon. "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."

As  of Monday, the injury-wracked Penguins are situated in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 90 points, six behind the East- and Atlantic Division-leading Flyers.

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