BOSTON (CBS) — Matt Cooke is a changed man.
Matt Cooke has reformed his game.
These are the things you have heard about Matt Cooke over the past three years.
These things are false.
Cooke, the 35-year-old who’s authored too many dirty hits in his career to count, was his old self on Monday evening, sticking out his left knee to take out Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie.
Barrie immediately fell to the ice in pain, grabbing his left knee. According to the TSN broadcast, Barrie told his bench right away, “I’m done.” The 22-year-old’s initial assessment proved to be accurate, as he did not return to the game and will now reportedly miss four to six weeks with an MCL injury.
Unlike in many of his past offenses, Cooke won’t get away with this one. He was issued a two-minute minor on the ice, but that was just the start of it. He now faces an in-person disciplinary hearing with the NHL department of player safety. That the hearing is in-person and not via telephone is an indication that Cooke may receive a suspension of five or more games.
Cooke has been suspended six times in his career, all during his time with Pittsburgh. After getting banned from 10 regular-season games as well as the first round of the playoffs in 2011, Cooke vowed that he would change his game. He made it through a couple of seasons, one with Pittsburgh and this one with Minnesota, without getting suspended, though the questionable hits have crept back into his game.
That movement manifested itself in Monday night’s knee-on-knee, a hit that Cooke has performed with regularity in his career. In fact, he sent Dallas forward Valeri Nichuskin flying with a knee-on-knee just last month. That hit went unpunished, and the Cooke-has-reformed-his-game myth continued to exist in NHL circles. But one look at this “Greatest Hits” collection from Cooke should tell the world all it needs to know about Cooke’s penchant for not hesitating even one split-second when given the opportunity to put an opponent’s career at risk.
The fairy tale of the reformed Cooke is now sure to have been told its final time, and perhaps this suspension will be the long-overdue nail in the coffin of Cooke’s NHL career.
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