Earlier in the day, TSN’s Bob McKenzie – arguably the most level-headed and well-connected ‘person in the know’ — hinted on his Twitter account not to be surprised if Matt Cooke was NOT suspended for his concussion-causing hit on Boston’s Marc Savard. McKenzie, a very outspoken opponent of headshots, said that the hit wasn’t “illegal” by the current rules and since Mike Richards escaped suspension earlier in the season on a similar type of hit, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Cooke slide through as well.
Turns out that will be the case, as after a 12:30 conference call with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, it’s been reported that Cooke will not be punished. However the legality of this type of hit is likely to change very soon.
Look, I’m a Penguins fan at heart and definitely developed an admiration for the all-out style of a guy like Cooke. I cheered when he landed a big hit on Alex Ovechkin during last year’s playoffs and cringed after his questionable knee-to-knee hit on Erik Cole. Yet I don’t think even the most blindly devoted Penguins fan could defend Cooke’s needless elbow on Savard.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that Cooke avoided suspension, though. As we’ve discussed quite a bit, Campbell seemed dismissive of the situation in interviews this week. Even though Cooke is a repeat offender, Campbell simply doesn’t think that the hit was illegal (at least under current rules).
I can’t help but find it disappointing that the league must be so bureaucratic about this, seeing as they’re on the verge of changing the rules. It’s almost as if Cooke’s hit is being “grandfathered in.” Still, the one decent thing to come out of this is that the league at least isn’t caving into pressure simply because Savard is injured. A dirty hit should be punished, even if the victim isn’t injured (and a “clean” hit shouldn’t yield a suspension even if a player is injured).
Hopefully the NHL can change its rules to curb these unnecessary, dangerous hits because their unwieldy and subjective suspension process clearly isn’t the solution.