Let’s just cut to the chase here.
Dirty. Disgusting. Blind-sided. Unnecessary.
These are all the right words to use to describe that hit on Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard at the hands of long-time notorious douchebag Matt Cooke. No, he’s not a douchebag because he plays for the Penguins, he’s a douchebag because he’s been that way his entire career. He’s reckless, he very rarely faces the music on the ice for his actions and he’s got a sufficient record in which to put him away for a long time.
That is, of course, if NHL Disciplinarian Colin Campbell feels that this time is the moment to send a message to the rest of the league that unnecessary shots to an unsuspecting player’s head are bad news for everyone.
The stars are aligned here for Matt Cooke to get a major-league spanking at the hands of the NHL for this hit. Of course… The one hang up here is that Flyers forward Mike Richards essentially did the same thing to Florida Panthers forward David Booth and received no punishment from the league for it.
Consistency is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
So what does Colin Campbell do here? Does he spank Cooke for being a repeat offender? Possibly. Does he make an example of Cooke for both being a repeat offender and for not having learned a lesson from previous toothless offenses? I doubt that. Just recently the league handed out punishment to previous offender Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard for a knee-on-knee hit to Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Jones in the form of a two game suspension. Considering he’s got an official record with the NHL two games seems about right considering.
That said, what will the NHL do with Cooke especially with league members meeting in Florida this week discussing the problem with head shots?
Seemingly so, this would seem like the right time to make Matt Cooke into the league’s whipping boy and pariah for how not to conduct one’s self on the ice when it comes to head shots. Then again, the league’s wild inconsistency when it comes to head shots is maddening on it’s own. The lack of action against Mike Richards with his hit on David Booth was baffling.
Not to get morbid about things here, but it was reported that Savard was knocked unconscious by Cooke’s hit and he was carted off the ice on a stretcher. For all that the NHL wants to do to keep up appearances, they come off seemingly lax when it comes to keeping their players’ sensibilities in order and there’s nothing worse for bad publicity than a player having to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. That goes for any sport, mind you, but when it happens in hockey it gives you an immediate feeling of dread, generally because hockey fans and players and coaches are more accustomed to seeing guys fight their way to the bench to be taken care of in the bowels of the arena away from the public eye.
Hockey players are tough customers and to see them fallen in such a manner that it leaves them powerless to get off the ice… It’s stunning to all the senses from the fairweather fan all the way up to the most hardened veteran player and executive. Joe Public is going to have that same sick feeling of dread as would, say, Steve Yzerman or Brian Burke. That same fan is also going to have that feeling of outrage over no immediate justice being handed out. Keep in mind that Cooke wasn’t penalized for the hit and that Savard will be out for a good amount of time with a concussion.
Concussions are not taken lightly any more, thankfully, and players are given whatever amount of time they need to to recoup from such a violent injury. Look at Andreas Lilja of the Detroit Red Wings who missed a full year of hockey to recover from a concussion suffered in a fight with Nashville’s Shea Weber. Rubbing some dirt on it doesn’t apply to brain injuries.
I know I sound like a horrible, broken record when it comes to these things but, again, this is a time when the NHL can step up and send a message that these kinds of plays will not be tolerated. The league doesn’t want the players to police themselves to the fullest and deal with line brawls to solve seeming on-ice injustice so they have to step up and show that this sort of ridiculous recklessness and total lack of respect for the fellow man on the ice will not be tolerated.
Moments like these and others like them are when the NHL should be stepping in and saying, “If you’re not going to respect each other on the ice, we’re not about to show you the same courtesy. Please enjoy forfeiting your salary for the next ______ game(s).”
Unfortunately, I expect gutlessness from Colin Campbell here. I expect a slap on the wrist and I expect that nothing in any way is going to change until the “brain trust” for the NHL puts it together to make an official ruling or set of regulations.