NHL players react to Cooke's actions and suspension

TSN.ca Staff
3/21/2011 9:24:24 PM
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A day after Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke delivered an elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh, players from around the league voiced their opinions on the latest in a long list of incidents involving Cooke.

"It's the talk of the dressing room every time something happens like that and it's always him. It's always the same guy," said Toronto Maple Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur, who referred to Cooke as a "dangerous player".

"I think he had a tough hit – that hit from behind too this year where he got suspended – that was all numbers, trying to hurt the guy and then (Sunday). There's no way he can say it wasn't a deliberate elbow to the head."

The NHL took swift action on Cooke, suspending the veteran forward for the remainder of the regular season (10 games) and the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The suspension is Cooke's fifth of his career and his fourth since 2009.

"I think that's a direct example of what you don't need in the game," stated Ottawa Senators forward Jason Spezza. "There's no reason for him to stick his elbow out like that."

"I think you can see the league is being proactive about it and I think everybody involved wants to see guys' heads being safe and hopefully they can come to some good solutions and not affect the game too much and keep everybody safe and happy," added Spezza.   

Depending on how the Penguins first round playoff series unfolds, Cooke's suspension will range from 14-17 games making it the longest punishment handed out by the NHL this season. 

"That play could have happened 20 years ago the same way and obviously it's being penalized a lot harsher these days, and it should be," remarked Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa. "There's no room for that hit 20 years ago, there's no room for that hit today. It's a pretty clear issue."

"I can't speak for what his intentions are but he plays the game hard. Throwing hits and being physical is part of his game and he's good at it and it's kept him in the league a long time. He has to play on that fine line, and he's crossed it just a few times lately.  It's tough to play on that fine line and not go over it but he has to be a little more cautious," explained Bieksa.

While some feel that the hit is merely a result of Cooke's gritty style of play, Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn feels that's no excuse.

"It's not even a matter of going out there and being an agitator, it's just in this instance keep going after guys' heads," said Schenn. "He's done it a few times before so obviously he knows there should be a consequence and he knows that he's hurt guys before too. When you go in there deliberately with an elbow, there shouldn't be any room in the game for that."

Much like the players around the league, the Penguins organization responded to Cooke's suspension with a level of understanding. General manager Ray Shero expressed his thoughts on the league's ruling in a statement on Monday.

"The suspension is warranted because that's exactly the kind of hit we're trying to get out of the game," Shero said in the statement. "Head shots have no place in hockey. We've told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message."

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