Matt Cooke’s blind-side elbow to the face of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh prompted the National Hockey League to suspend the Pittsburgh Penguins wing for the final 10 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs.
The NHL has said it intends to crack down on illegal head shots and Penguins General Manager Ray Shero said the team supports the punishment for Cooke.
“The suspension is warranted because that’s exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game,” Shero said in a 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.”
Cooke was considered a repeat offender by the NHL, having been suspended four games last month for hitting Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin from behind. He’d received two other suspensions in the past three seasons. Cooke was assessed a major penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct for the latest incident, which occurred two days ago during the third period of the Penguins’ 5-2 loss to the Rangers.
While McDonagh returned to the game six minutes later, he sat out yesterday’s practice as a precaution, Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
NHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said in a statement that Cooke “directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position.”
Cooke, who leads the Penguins with 129 penalty minutes, will forfeit $219,512 in salary during his suspension, which started with last night’s 5-4 shootout win against Detroit. Cooke has 12 goals and 18 assists in 67 games.
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