Why You Should Defend Matt Cooke

Matt Cooke has an ugly history, but don’t we all?

Cooke was recently suspended seven games for this hit on Tyson Barrie

Was it a penalty? Absolutely. Was it dirty? Watch the video and forget it’s Matt Cooke… Cooke is going to check Barrie straight on and then Barrie changes his path. Cooke does not change direction or path’s and makes contact with Barrie as he lifts his knee off the ground. It’s Cooke’s responsibility to avoid contact and therefore this definitely warranted a minor penalty, just like unintentional high sticking is called.

But to say this was a dirty play and that Cooke intentionally took Barrie out is ridiculous.

Cooke’s history makes it nearly impossible for most people to give him the benefit of the doubt and that is understandable. Cooke was indeed a dirty player for many years early in his career. After numerous suspensions, Cooke came to a crossroads in his career  in 2011 after this DIRTY hit on Ryan McDonagh…

Cooke received a 10 game suspension and missed the first round of the playoffs that season. Penguins GM Ray Shero was quoted saying that Cooke’s play was unacceptable and if he did not change his approach to the game, the Pens would be forced to go in a different direction.

Matt Cooke Changes His Game

Matt Cooke: FEB 20 Penguins at Blackhawks - Credit: IconSMI

Cooke took to heart what Shero said and took the entire offseason to begin changing his brand of hockey. The following season, he finished with a career low 44 penalty minutes. He had received zero suspensions since the McDonagh hit until the incident with Barrie.

Cooke had 129 penalty minutes during the 2010-11 season. Since, he’s taken 44, 36 and a 54. No suspensions. Yet, at the first chance for the NHL to discipline him, they give him seven games out and the public, once again, is assassinating his character and all the progress he’s made.

What we all forget however-fans and media- is that Matt Cooke is a human-being just like all of us: he’s got a wife and three kids, pays taxes, and attends church regularly. It just so happens that his day job is much better than all of ours. He has a dirty history, just like most people. But he’s taken responsibility for it and corrected his actions. The Matt Cooke playing in Minnesota is a very new player.

A seven game suspension is absurd.

When a clear head shot like this takes place and only a three game suspension is handed out, you clearly begin to see the NHL’s bias against Matt Cooke. A headshot should always be taken a little more serious than an accidental knee incident, yet Cooke received twice the games out that Brent Seabrook did. Repeat offender? I guess the NHL doesn’t believe in change.

Don’t be so quick to hate Matt Cooke. He’s a person, just like you. And if the whole world knew your past, I doubt they’d think the same of you. Take it back to kindergarden, and treat others the way you want to be treated. Cooke is a good guy; I speak from personal interaction with him. You don’t have to defend him, but don’t crucify him.

Re-examine the play. Was it really dirty enough for a seven game suspension? You tell me. Join the conversation on Twitter using #THW and follow @BSmithTHW.

Brady Smith

  • Carla Weaver

    I’m sorry I didn’t catch your article when you first wrote it. Everyone who knows me knows I am Matt’s biggest fan. Hockey has had players on the edge since it’s inception. Before all sports became concussion-centric, players like Matt were sought after and praised by coaching staffs. You can’t flip a switch and change a style of play that took you to the heights of your sport over night. I bought the Center Ice package so I could watch The Wild last season ( I live in Pittsburgh), and I watched a ton of hockey, particularly Western Conference. It’s rough out there. Subban, Marchand, Neal, others have questionable plays all the time. Micromeasurements of time & space can take any hockey play from clean to dirty. Fans have blinders on when it comes to “their guy”. The constant character assassination is unwarranted. Watch the game and you will see that Cookie didn’t invent the cheap shot.

  • Maatt Cooke

    hockey has playing you know is a rough sport,but playing dirty is a far cry from playing rough.Youshould of barred long ago its a shame you are playing today .players you have hurt are out for a life time.

  • James C.

    I don’t understand how you can say that the knee-to-knee hit wasn’t intentional. He extended his right as he made contact with Barrie instead of his shoulder. This hit was 100% on purpose. This isn’t going off of any of his prior offenses, but from a hockey fan. I have mixed feelings about guys that make hits like this one.

  • Jim

    As a wild fan I was pissed when chuck signed cookie. I came to realize he has changed and I was wrong. I think it was a hockey play gone bad. He was chasing Barrie to finish a hit, but was a bit slow and late that’s why the knee was out a bit. I really can’t recall a playoff series in history without a questionable hit or two. If bartuzzi cam be forgiven for Moore cookie should also. For those who say he should be banned. I’m curious your thoughts a Scott Stevens? With careers like lindros, kariya etc ended yet he is celebrated. Maybe some should check hockey history before the faucets are turned on full. This isn’t soccer where players flop and fans cry for the results they want.

  • Jim

    Every playoff series in history has questionable hits. I was pissed when the wild aquired Matt Cooke. I quickly came to realize he has changed his game. If bartuzzi can be forgiven for what he did to Moore cookie deserves forgiveness too. For those who say he extended his knee I say he was atempting to finish his hit by following Barrie who was trying to roll away. A hockey play gone wrong. If you say he should be banned I ask you thoughts on Scott Stevens? With careers ended like lindros, kariya etc. check hockey history before the faucets turn on full.

  • http://rossbonander.com Ross Bonander

    While I think your defense is admirable, this isn’t a court of law and not everyone is guaranteed a rigorous defense. In cases like this, it’s best not to consider it from the perspective of Matt Cooke, the aggressor, but from the perspective of Tyson Barrie.

    In other words, it’s easy to defend Cooke if you don’t believe that you’ll be his next victim (and the odds are decent there will be another one before he’s done). It’s no great virtue to declare a player ‘incident-free’ for X number of months. The underlying philosophy here is that the way to play hockey is incident-free. That’s the standard. It’s a hard standard to uphold, but by and large most players manage it; or at least they manage it without leaving a list of injured players behind them.

    To me, Tyson Barrie should still be playing because Matt Cooke had already cashed out his chances long ago, and should be toiling away in some other league. Why let him rehab his image in the NHL when he’s done enough damage in this league to lose his privilege to play in it.

  • Trini

    How many other players have been suspended as much as Cooke? How many other players have had a rule put in place in the NHL handbook because of their dirty actions? He has never changed his ways. He clearly extends his leg here. I don’t know how you can think otherwise.

    Who cares if Cooke is a good guy? He still makes some boneheaded decisions on the ice. Good guy or not these plays DO NOT belong in the nhl. You’re clearly blinded by your relationship with Cookie to truly look at the facts objectively. But I guess so is the NHL because a 7 game suspension is laughable.

    • Brady Smith

      Thanks for your feedback. I’d like to just say I respectfully disagree and that my “relationship” with Cooke that you speak of was a one time meeting and a relationship with a mutual friend that knows him well. Hockey is a sport, and there’s more to life than sports. So I care if Cooke is a good guy.

  • http://bluenotebacker.wordpress.com @bluenotebacker

    I am continually baffled by anyone who watches that video and cannot see the Cooke extends his leg to make contact with Barrie. We can’t know his intention, certainly, but you CAN see the video and Cooke *at the very least* makes no effort NOT to go right at Barrie’s knee. But that’s being generous.

    My argument has nothing to do with Cooke’s history and everything to do with an obviously dangerous hit that looks from every angle like it could’ve been avoided. Would an injury still occurred if they’d collided differently? Probably, possibly to Cooke. Could Cooke have avoided running into Barrie, probably not, but unless you have cataracts you can see the extension of Cooke’s leg.

    The question of whether it deserves 7-games when Seabrook only got 3 simply proves the fact that the department of NHL Player Safety is a joke and the league isn’t really interested in protecting players. They’re POLICING offenders, not making efforts to deter them. Did Cooke get 7 games because of his history, probably, but it’s not because the hit wasn’t dirty or warranted a long suspension, but due to the ineptitude of the league when it comes to discipline and safety.

    • Brady Smith

      Thanks for reading. I agree with your final point; I believe the NHLPS is a joke. Cooke was suspended due to history and the outcome of the hit. I’m arguing that if this was a first time “offender” and the player wasn’t seriously hurt, this was a finable hit, maybe a game or two, not an entire series.

  • Anthony Bloch

    I’ve watched the play over and over again and it looks to me that Cooke extends his knee. I understand that you want us to forget who Matt is but it does play a part. To me multiple repeat offenders don’t deserve my sympathy. I think that was a really dirty play and I think that the NHL let him off the hook again. the guy should not be in the NHL.

    even if Matt goes another two years without getting suspended, he will do something to hurt another player. That’s in his DNA and I don’t think he can get away from it, however hard he may claim to try.

    • Brady Smith

      Thanks for your comment Anthony, I appreciate the feedback. I do disagree that being a dirty player is in his DNA. It’s a mindset and his mindset has changed. Players with history will never be given the benefit of the doubt and that’s simply wrong.