The Pittsburgh Penguins have been informed by the NHL that forward Matt Cooke will not be suspended for his hit on Boston's Marc Savard.
Savard suffered a grade-two concussion when Cooke levelled him with a shoulder to the head in open ice during a game on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
In explaining his decision, NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said that the ruling was based on consistency involving similar incidents. Philadelphia's Mike Richards was not suspended for a similar hit on Florida's David Booth last October, so using that as precedent, Cooke was not suspended either.
"No one likes when a player like Marc Savard goes down the way he did. No one likes when a player like David Booth goes down the way he did. But we have to be consistent," explained Campbell.
"I know Matt Cooke is a repeat offender, he's been suspended twice in the last year. I can't suspend Matt Cooke for being a repeat offender, I have to find a reason. Right now our rules say that shoulders to head are legal. Matt Cooke did not jump, and did not do anything that we found illegal in his actions even though again you don't like what happened," added Campbell.
Bruins' GM Peter Chiarelli said that he was upset that Cooke was not suspended for his actions.
"I'm both surprised and angered," Chiarelli said on a conference call. "It's really disappointing."
Bruins' forward Steve Begin was shocked at the news that there would be no suspension on the hit the injured his teammate.
"I don't know what to say. Of course we thought he would be suspended," Begin told the Boston Herald. "We thought the league would take care of it. They've been talking about shots to the head for a while and now they have a perfect example and they don't do anything about it."
On Wednesday, the NHL's general managers recommended a new penalty be given for "a lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and or the principal point of contact is not permitted."
If the rule is adopted it will be implemented next season. Campbell said that if the Cooke-Savard incident had taken place under the new rule, Cooke would have been suspended. He said that as is currently the policy, suspensions for repeat offenders will be stiffer yet.
Cooke has been suspended twice before for delivering hits to the head. He got two games last November for what was judged to be a deliberate check to the head area of New York Rangers centre Artem Anisimov, and two more in Jan. 2009 for delivering a hit to the head of Carolina Hurricanes' forward Scott Walker.
"I know it's not something that Boston fans, or hockey fans would like to hear," said Campbell. "They want justice. We feel we have to be consistent and do what we feel is right and hopefully we've gone to a place in our meetings today that we can eradicate plays like this in the future."
The Bruins and Penguins meet for the final time this season next Thursday in Boston.