Penguins forward Matt Cooke will not be suspended by the NHL for his hit Sunday that left the Bruins’ Marc Savard with a Grade 2 concussion. TSN first reported the story.
“Didn’t surprise me,” said Bruins VP Cam Neely, citing the non-suspension earlier this year when Philadelphia’s Mike Richards belted Florida’s David Booth with a blind-side belt. “Based on Richards’s hit on Booth, and that he didn’t get suspended, it didn’t surprise me.”
GM Peter Chiarelli, who had been lobbying league disciplinarian Colin Campbell the last few days, expressed his disappointment over the lack of suspension. Chiarelli said that based on Cooke’s history of questionable hits, he should have been tagged with an intent to injure penalty, then been suspended.
“I’m upset,” Chiarelli said. “I can’t believe he wasn’t suspended. It’s really disappointing.”
NHL vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said the ruling had to do with consistency. Wrote TSN analyst Bob McKenzie via Twitter:
“No suspension for Richards. No suspension for Cooke. … [Campbell] said if this hit happens next season it is a suspension. And if it’s a repeat offender like Cooke, the suspension will be stiffer again.”
Cooke left Savard sprawled unconscious on the ice with a blindside hit in Sunday’s game. Had it been determined that Cooke hit Savard with an elbow to the head, a suspension would have been likely. But replays were unclear as to whether Cooke used an elbow or his shoulder to hit Savard, who may miss the rest of the season because of the concussion.
Since Savard’s injury, NHL general managers recommended altering the language in the rule book regarding blows to the head, particularly “a lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and or the principal point of contact is not permitted.”
The rule could be implemented next season. According to TSN, Campbell said that Cooke would have been suspended for his hit on Savard had such a guideline been in place this season. The 2009-10 rule book does not specify any penalty for a shoulder hit to the head.
“By the sounds of it, hits like that will be penalized and be reviewed for a suspension,” Neely said. “Right now, it’s not there to say do it this way. As much as we all believe there should be a suspension, there’s nothing in the rule book saying you can’t hit a player in that fashion.”
The non-suspension means Cooke should be in the lineup when the Bruins host the Penguins next Thursday. Neely didn’t want to answer whether the Bruins should seek retribution on Cooke in that game.
“Part of what this game is all about,” Neely said, “is taking responsibility for the actions that we do.”