BOSTON (CBS) – We’re all imperfect. We all make mistakes. And for the most part we can be forgiving.
A second chance, depending on the action, is always acceptable to some degree. It’s really when the mistakes continue, that we start to judge one’s character.
Matt Cooke fits well into this criticism. With a vicious track record of intentionally head hunting players, can we ever truly believe that the man could change?
In a recent article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Cooke states that “he does not want to hurt anybody.” He went on to say that he “has changed his approach” to hitting and will “only do it the right way.”
He used his wife’s recent kidney infection as the reason for the sudden change of heart.
On some level, you want to believe what he’s saying. You want to feel sympathy for a man who’s a father and a loving husband. A man who has been by his wife’s side for the past seven months as she struggled with a severe illness. You want to. You know the feeling is there.
But I just can’t.
The first issue is, why bring up your family at all? Although the situation is clearly tragic, it’s hard to find a link between his wife’s illness and his consistently dirty style of playing the game. One has nothing to do with the other. Period. Even the mention of his wife’s illness comes across as conniving.
Secondly and more importantly, Matt Cooke has had too many chances. In 2008-2009 Cooke was suspended on two different occasions. In February he was penalized for a viscious head shot on Artem Anisimov of the New York Rangers. Later in the year he did the same thing to Scott Walker of the Carolina Hurricanes.
You think it would stop there. It didn’t.
Of course we all know what happened on March 7, 2010 as Cooke intentionally blindsided Bruins center Marc Savard and knocked him unconscious, ultimately ruining his career. That had to be it. It wasn’t. 2011 brought yet another two suspensions including a hit from behind on Fedor Tyutin of Columbus and a head shot to Ryan McDonagh of the Rangers. The latter drew a 14-game suspension from the NHL.
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Ultimately, the track record speaks for itself. Cooke has had plenty of opportunities. He vowed to change his ways. He hasn’t. What makes this time any different? Although there are elements of his personal life that paint him as a genuine and heartfelt individual, his on-ice persona trumps them altogether.
One offense may be forgivable. Two becomes questionable. Three, four and five leave no room for further apologies.
Follow Mark Feldman on Twitter @mfsports21