NHL

Legal Look: Considering Cooke and repeat offender status

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Eric Macramalla, TSN Legal Analyst
4/23/2014 2:53:33 PM
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On Wednesday, Wild forward Matt Cooke had a disciplinary hearing with the NHL after his knee-on-knee hit on Avalanche defenceman Tyson Barrie. As a result of the hit, Colorado has lost its top offensive defenseman for 4 to 6 weeks with an MCL injury.

The CBA sets out the procedure for supplementary discipline. It's found at Article 18 of the CBA and is called "Supplementary Discipline For On-Ice Conduct".

Article 18.2 of the CBA provides a list of the factors the league will consider when determining supplementary discipline. They are as follows:

(a) The type of conduct involved: conduct outside of NHL rules; excessive force in contact otherwise permitted by NHL rules; and careless or accidental conduct. Players are responsible for the consequences of their actions.

(b) Injury to the opposing Player(s) involved in the incident.

(c) The status of the offender and, specifically, whether the Player has a history of being subject to Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct. Players who repeatedly violate League Playing Rules will be more severely punished for each new violation.
 
(d) The situation of the game in which the incident occurred: late in the game, lopsided score, prior events in the game.

(e) Such other factors as may be appropriate in the circumstances.

So the league will look at all these factors when determining the length of Cooke's suspension. One factor that will be the focus will be Article 18.2(c) – Cooke's history of violating league rules. To say the least, Cooke has quite the NHL rap sheet. Since 2009, he's been suspended a total of 25 games for hits on Scott Walker, Artem Anisimov, Fedor Tyutin and Ryan McDonagh. He's also injured other guys with reckless hits, like Sam Gagner, Valeri Nichushkin, Adam McQuaid, Alex Ovechkin, Steve Montador, Evander Kane, Keith Yandle, Erik Karlsson and Rick DiPietro.

And of course he ended Marc Savard's career.

By the way, the bolded language at 18.(c) is not my doing; the NHL CBA has it bolded so you know it's important.

The talk about being a repeat offender doesn't apply to the length of the suspension. A repeat offender refers to someone that commits a violation of the league rules within 18 months of another violation. A player that was a repeat offender could get a tougher punishment.

Under the old 2005 CBA, repeat offenders were treated more harshly as far as length of a suspension goes. However, the new CBA has some changes in it, including doing away with the repeat offender consideration when assessing length of a suspension (it's still around when dealing with suspension compensation – see Article 18.5).

Presumably, the NHLPA and NHL were in agreement that the "repeat offender" provision did not capture players who spaced out their transgressions by more than 18 months but were still a threat to player health and safety. On that basis, they agreed to amend the CBA. You have to wonder if this change should be dedicated to Raffi Torres and Matt Cooke as they were likely part of the inspiration for the amendment.

As far as length of Cooke's suspension, it's tough to know since past suspensions have not always been predictable. That being said, given Cooke's history of violence, a suspension of at least 15 games would not be a surprise. Frankly, it could easily be more given the reckless and dangerous manner in which he plays the game. Indeed, he may get a high suspension given that Cooke Fatigue has undoubtedly set in.

Matt Cooke  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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