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Cooke reacts to non-action from NHL, and is Tyler Kennedy in danger of losing his spot?



Those Penguins fans who heard my radio appearance Wednesday night on the “The Gregg Gianotti Show” may be surprised to have heard that I supported the NHL’s decision not to suspend LW Matt Cooke for his hit on Bruins C Marc Savard last Sunday. The hit was legal, period and end of story. It won’t be the end of the story, but it should be.

Also, suspending players for a legal hit is not a move the NHL should make. Suspending players after a legal hit because of their reputation – as reaction from players around the league seemingly would have liked to have seen happen with Cooke – is also a move from which the NHL should steer clear.


Cooke addressed the NHL’s lack of disciplinary action and GMs’ proposed head-shot rules after a morning practice Thursday at RBC Center:

Q: Were you surprised by the NHL’s lack of action against you?

A: A: I prepared for the league to make a decision; either way I was going to have to deal with it. They did their homework, obviously, with the timing of the GM meetings. Right now my thoughts are with Savard and I hope he gets a speedy recovery, because it wasn’t my intention to hurt him.

Q: Have you made contact with Savard?

A: I went to as big of lengths as I could to make sure he got a message from me… (but) I didn’t speak with him.

Q: Do you feel you’ll be a marked man now?

A: I don’t know if it’s any different than it was before.

Q: Have you had a chance to read the proposed rule, and will it make it any clearer?

A: I hope that it does bring clarification to what’s allowed and what’s not. I know they worked hard on it. I know there are some strict concerns. I hope it brings clarification.

Q: Does it?

A: Yeah, I think it does. I think it protects guys in certain areas of the ice.

Q: Would it be easier to have an outright ban on blows to the head?

A: My personal opinion on that is the speed of the game is so great it’s impossible to do that. I think they are going in the right direction.

Q: Do you see the rule as something that will make players think twice?

A: I think it’s going to make sure you’re in that area, and that guys are more protected.


Highlights from head coach Dan Bylsma’s post-practice scrum:

— G Brent Johnson will start at Carolina, making G Marc-Andre Fleury the guy charged with helping the Penguins beat the Devils for the first time this season Friday at New Jersey.

— “The Nightmare Line” of Cooke-C Jordan Staal-RW Tyler Kennedy may not be a sure bet to stay together given the Penguins’ newfound forward depth. “We have a lot of guys in our lineup playing very well,” Bylsma said. “Pascal Dupuis is playing the best hockey I’ve seen since he’s been a Penguin. Mike Rupp is playing really well. Craig Adams is in a penalty-killing role, and he’s a big part of that; he’s playing well physically. Max Talbot is getting back to being Max in terms of work ethic, determination and tenacity on the ice. That’s creating a lot of competition on our team right now, and we have that situation tonight with a healthy complement of forwards, minus Eric Godard. Yes, there’s movement in our lineup.” Kennedy is without a goal in 16 games, and he has scored just four since opening the season with five in nine games.


Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.


  1. Frank says:

    I would gladly take Kennedy in the lineup over having to watch Fedotenko consistently mishandle feeds from Poni and Malkin. At least TK brings energy and regularly puts the puck on net which result in rebound opportunities for Staal and Cooke. That’s more than what Fedotenko brings to the team this and he doesn’t get benched?

    At the end of the day, Bylsma calls the shots and he obviously knows his team better than I do, but benching TK and keeping Fedotenko in there for every game doesn’t make very much sense to me. Fedotenko’s play this season has been painful to watch.

  2. Mark Cavallucci says:

    Rob- was about to comment on the same thing that Frank talked about above. I know Fedotenko played well in the playoff’s last year– but he has played terribly all season long– Do you have any “inside” information as to how this is going to play out? Thanks

  3. Paul M says:

    Simply calling it was a “legal hit” and therefore eliminating any dissension on that issue presumes a lot. It’s not that clear. I watched it many times and it could have been called an elbowing or interference (late hit) penalty within a ref’s judgment.
    Cooke was previously penalized and suspended for a similar hits on the Ranger player and Scott Walker. You can argue they were different, but it’s not as cut and dry as you make it out to be.
    Anyone who has played hockey (or watched a lot of hockey) could see that Cooke intended the hit early on and could have pulled up, instead delivering a shoulder/elbow to the head. The “speed of the game” comments Cooke made don’t apply to this situation. There was no change in circumstance or intervening factor that Cooke had to deal with. He just lined him up and had plenty of time. Cooke has a history of dirty hits and suspensions and this was just a continuation of that pattern. His post hit comments are politically correct and for public consumption. They lack sincerity. What’s he going to say, “I had a clear shot at a helpless opponent who didn’t see me coming so I took him out”?

    I generally greatly respect your opinions and understanding of the game, but I have to seriously question that if Crosby was the victim that you would take the same position. Your recent comments about Crosby asking you about the purchase of your house and your reaction aren’t those of a neutral observer. Crosby is a great player and may be a nice guy, but he’s not perfect. While you are not generally guilty, the “homer” reporters in this town diminish the achievements of the teams and often end up sounding ridiculous. (That being said, the overwhelming majority of the media branded the Cooke hit “dirty” and called for a suspension to their credit). Thank you for the opportunity to vent.

  4. Tracey Lehigh says:

    I’ve been watching all the media reports & player reactions for the past few days on the Savard hit by Matt Cooke. It’s really beginning to agitate me more & more everytime I read or hear about it. The timing of the hit couldn’t have come at a worse time for Cooke; but at a perfect time for the GM meetings. Cooke has become the poster boy for “the bad hits campaign” that is currently underway by the NHL. I believe in light of their previous decision this year not to suspend Richards for the Booth hit the NHL was fair not to suspend Cooke.

    Did I like either hit; no, but hitting is part of the game. Removing it would throw the game into the figure skating arena; there has to be a middle ground that can be acheived while still maintaining the integrity of the game. Cooke’s history has come into play on the issue & yes maybe that should be a consideration when making decisions of this nature after it has been shown the player committed an illegal play; my problem with the public lynching of Cooke is that he isn’t the only player in the league who has made questionable types of plays; that list would take weeks to compile, and a majority of them wouldn’t be on record.

    Cooke fills a role on the Penguins that is key to his & the teams game; there are 29 other teams in the NHL who also have players that fill the same role and play a similar type of game. Should all of these players be told not to continue to play their game or just Cooke? This reminded of Ovechkin’s suspension levied because of his knee-to-knee hit on Tim Gleason. This was his first suspension even though he also has a history of “dirty plays” specifically those of the knee-to-knee variety, Downie in Tampa & Pens fans will never forget his loving hit on Gonchar during the playoffs, he was also fined for a slew-foot earlier in the season.

    This is an example of the game played by a NHL superstar; so I guess it’s alright. What struck me as interesting about this case was that after the suspension was handed down Ovechkin was quoted as saying that he had absolutely no intention of changing his game, and he might come back “more angry”-or more determined to play a physical game. This attitude was encourage by Capitols owner Leonsis & his coach Bruce Boudreau.

    If a star of the league isn’t expected to change his somewhat reckless & physical game why should others? After Cooke’s hit he has shown serious signs of remorse too the extent that I believe it has affected his game and he seemed to be a bit tentative with some of his hits. Cooke was finishing his check with no intentsion of seriously harming Savard. He was doing his job, playing his game, within the present guidelines of the NHL, so why is he being crucified?

    The Penguins play the Bruins in a week and I’m sure there will be retaliation, which is to be expected, hopefully the rumors of them having a target on Crosby’s head prove to be just that a rumor. Cooke no doubt will stand up for himself & hopefully Pens fans everywhere will support him. I respect his role, the heart he shows playing the game, and I’m proud that he wears a Penguin jersey. (would love to see him continue to wear it in the future) If the NHL needs a poster boy and the players want to chastise someone maybe they should be looking somewhere other than the Penguins locker room.

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