With all of the media attention surrounding the NHL and their intention to significantly reduce the amount of head-shots in the game, the Matt Cooke elbow on Ryan McDonagh is a gift to the NHL in my opinion. There is nothing the Matt Cooke apologists can say to even have a remote chance of excusing this attempt to severely injure another player. It's his objective on the ice, to hurt other players. He deliberately doesn't hit people in the body (unless it's in the back, of course), he cuts across them hoping to catch their head. McDonagh didn't turn his back, or suddenly move, he was slowly gliding backwards dumping the puck into the zone and Matt Cooke conducted a drive-by elbowing. He could have easily hit McDonagh from the side, into his shoulder, and it would have been a clean, hard hit. But no, Cooke had to cut in front of him to throw an elbow.
Let's look at the NHL's current 5-step process to eliminate head-shots and diagnose concussions.
Here's step 3 of their new plan
"The Board will be approached to elevate the standard in which a Club and its Coach can be held accountable if it has a number of 'repeat offenders' with regard to Supplementary Discipline."
Continue after the jump....
This incident goes beyond Matt Cooke (more on him in a moment). This incident is a golden opportunity for the NHL to put some tangible teeth behind all of their bluster and talk about reducing head-shots and concussions. No more 'talks', or 'board meetings', or 'panels' to determine standards for clubs, coaches, and personnel. We're way beyond that point. This incident has everything: a repeat offender, intent to injure a player, an intentional hit to the head area, a club and coach that has CONDONED Matt Cooke's dangerous and violent acts. The NHL couldn't ask for a better example for the type of play they're trying to remove from the league. The suspensions they normally hand out equate to nothing more than traffic tickets for the players.
If the NHL wants to show it's serious about this, then here's where they need to start:
- Matt Cooke - 15 game suspension, a 50,000 dollar fine, and a mandate that he attend anger management classes and seminars on the effects of concussions (they made Avery take an anger management course for saying 'sloppy seconds' on TV. To take the magical equivalence fairy's approach; If they can make a player take anger management for making a crude joke, then a player like Cooke should be lobotomized.) Start taking massive chunks of money from a player, and the point will get across.
- Dan Bylsma - 50,000 fine. The fact that an NHL coach condones these violent acts, and then promotes that player to a position of respect and leadership is absurd. It comes a time when it's obvious that a rabid dog is a rabid dog and must be put down (metaphorically speaking), and it's the owner's responsibility if that dog attacks somebody. Well, it's obvious Cooke is akin to a 'rabid dog', because he continues his violent and reckless play, and Dan Bylsma is equally at fault for letting that dog off his leash.
- Mario Lemieux / Team Ownership Group - 100,000 fine. Just like the Islanders got for that disgusting incident a few weeks ago with Haley and Gillies attacking other players. That was an isolated incident, Matt Cooke is an epidemic. Same reasons as Dan Bylsma apply -- they're knowingly letting a rabid dog loose, and just like the owner of the dog is responsible, so should the player's employer be responsible.
That's how you make a statement that you're serious about reducing head-shots and concussions in the league, and that you're serious about player safety. Hold the players accountable, and when it's obvious said player cannot control his actions, then the responsibility has to fall to the coach and ultimately the ones who write the pay-checks.
Not to step on DBMaven's terrific screed on Lemieux, but for Mario, hypocrisy be thy name and shame unto you. I also have to add Dan Bylsma into that as well. It's time for both of these 'men', to step up in a big way, admit their mistake, and find the quickest path possible to removing Cooke from their organization. At bare minimum, strip that disgraceful assistant captaincy off of his sweater, and sit him for the remainder of his contract. No games, no practices, no working out with the team. He should be shunned.
And for Matt Cooke...my only question is, how do you go home at night and look at your family...at your children? What runs through your head on a play like this? You had a perfect opportunity to hit a guy hard, in the shoulder, which would have resulted in a clean hit and probably a spot on ESPN. But you chose to skate by him, throw your elbow out AT his head....it just baffles me. How do you call yourself a man? I love this game, and it would that much better without you and your kind. Hopefully either the NHL, your coach, your teammates, your owner, or God forbid YOU decide enough is enough. You're a bitch.