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Op-Ed: NHL's nasty Matt Cooke can fool some of the people, but not me

By Marcus Hondro     Feb 16, 2013 in Sports
Matt Cooke may have fooled many people by contritely telling cameras that raising his foot and jamming it down onto the back of Erik Karlsson's lower leg was an accident. But if you believe him, I'd like to talk to you about buying an ice-rink on Mars.
Cooke's actions have lacerated the left Achilles tendon of last season's Norris Trophy winner - 70 percent of the tendon was severed - and Karlsson was operated on Thursday, the day after the injury. Ottawa Senators' doctor, Dr. Don Chow, says recovery from such an injury takes at least 4 months; given the time frame that's another way of saying his 2013 season is over.
Matt Cooke: Dirty hits, suspensions
For this observer, there isn't a need to go back and view Cooke's past and the four suspensions he's received to pronounce him guilty of intentionally kicking Karlsson in the back of the leg. For example, without watching the horrific elbow to the head of Marc Savard that ended Savard's career and left concerns he'd be able to have a normal family life, one can pass a guilty judgement on Cooke's latest nonsense. How?
The tape alone is enough to tell the tale. Don't believe the normally astute Bob McKenzie, or anyone else you may hear talk about the play, this is not a hockey play, it's a nasty kick, very likely done in anger (note the extra flick of his skate just before making contact). It is violence, it is not hockey and, again, the tape tells the tale.
A hockey play would be to move your leg up behind the opponents to stop him from easily freeing himself from the boards and skating away; McKenzie was right when he told the Team 1040 in Vancouver that in the NHL that's a common play. That is not what Matt Cooke did to Erik Karlsson, however. Cooke raises his leg and thrusts it forward and downward, an action that took malice aforethought and the result is hardly surprising. He was not losing his balance, as some suggest, but was so balanced that he was able to drive his foot down with force.
The Penguins Mr. Nasty had become angry over another play earlier in the game, and it seems logical to extrapolate that his anger flared and he couldn't control his need to go back to the dirty Matt Cooke, the one that had allegedly been reformed. He got caught up in that moment and he cruelly took it out on Erik Karlsson.
Brendan Shanahan joins Brian Burke and Colin Campbell
Besides the tragedy of Karlsson's injury and of Ottawa and their fans, and all NHL fans, missing one of the game's bright young stars, the incident may show something that does not auger well for NHL hockey: that disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan is no better at his job than the men who went before him, Brian Burke and Colin Campbell.
When Burke meted out punishment, the big moment that showed he was not capable of the post was the Gary Suter vicious and willful crosscheck to Paul Kariya's head in 1997; the resultant concussion left Kariya out 8 months and he missed the 1998 Nagano Olympics. That cheap shot had such devastating results that Kariya has said he never fully recovered from it and yet Burke gave Suter just 4 games, barely a slap on the wrists.
For Campbell there are a string of examples of his inability to grasp what needed to be done to prevent needless injuries. One example would be the Cooke hit on Savard, for which Mr. Cooke received no suspension whatever, not one game. Or that vicious 2007 Chris Pronger elbow to the head of Dean McAmmond in the playoffs, for which Campbell gave Pronger one game.
Hard-hitting, skillful NHL hockey, please
Stomping a leg with a skate, with your back to the cameras, is arguably a more difficult infraction to call than a head shot. But the tape tells the tale, only Brendan Shanahan lacked the courage to step forward, make the call and suspend Matt Cooke for a very long time.
The more we tell the powers that be in the NHL that we want hard-hitting, skillful hockey, not wanton violence, then the more likely it is that we'll eventually get it. It seemed to be getting closer, and maybe it is, but this time at least Brendan Shanahan, and others, were fooled.
But don't you be - it was intentional.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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