When Matt Cooke extended his knee and injured Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie, hockey fans, not just Avs fans, howled for punishment. The list of players that Cooke has hurt during his career is impressive, and though the last three years of his career have been suspension free, you can’t teach an old Cooke new tricks.
The seven-game suspension that was handed to Cooke will be the second longest ban of his career, but does not do Barrie, the Avalanche or the NHL justice. Given Cooke’s past, and penchant to deliver questionable hits, Cooke should have been blacklisted and banned for life, much like Marty McSorley was for this play.
Fans often say when one of their team’s players gets injured, that the guilty party should miss as much time as the player that was injured. It’s an unrealistic approach to suspensions. Though I think baseball has many things wrong, when it comes to cracking down on performance-enhancing drugs, baseball has the right idea.
For goons like Cooke, harsher punishment will have to be handed down by the NHL to eliminate the amount of damage they can do. For the first intent to injure infraction, suspend the player 20 games (a quarter of the season), for the second infraction 40 games (half the season), and if the player can’t or won’t change his ways, a season-long suspension will send a clear message that the NHL will not tolerate dirty players tarnishing the game.
In the old NHL, the policy of self-policing worked well, because at some point in time, be it the next game or the next season, a player would get what he deserved. But self-policing doesn’t work in today’s NHL, unfortunately Avs fans know that all too well.