RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA -- The hot topic in the Penguins locker room at RBC Center following their morning skate was that Matt Cooke
was not suspended for a hit on Boston's Marc Savard this past Sunday. The league investigated the hit and decided that it did not warrant a suspension.
I prepared for the league to make a decision, either way I was going to have to deal with it. They did their homework on these hits, with the timing of the GM meetings. Right now my thoughts are with Savard and that he makes a speedy recovery. It wasn’t my intention to hit him and hurt him. - Matt Cooke
"I prepared for the league to make a decision, either way I was going to have to deal with it," said Cooke. "They did their homework on these hits, with the timing of the GM meetings. Right now my thoughts are with Savard and that he makes a speedy recovery. It wasn’t my intention to hit him and hurt him."
"I didn’t spend too much time anticipating what they were going to do or not do," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "I’m confident that this hit was scrutinized more than any of other hit this year given the time, the situation and GMs meeting together. I know Colin Campbell had a lot of time, a lot of people and a lot of opinions helping him out on this one."
Cooke's hit and Mike Richards' hit that sidelined David Booth earlier this season were frequently discussed by the general managers at their yearly meeting. There is discussion that a new rule will be implemented to eliminated blind side hits, and to help better explain to the players and referees what is allowed and not allowed.
"You really have to find clear cut rules because the game is so fast," captain Sidney Crosby
said. "It happens so fast that it’s hard for a referee, or even us players, as a guy being hit or delivering a hit, when it’s that quick it’s hard for us to decipher whether the guy is not expecting it or is expecting it. These are all things that are gray areas. We need hard facts. When it’s a hook we know the stick has to be parallel and obstructing the guy from moving. We know that’s clear cut. Right now there is not clear cut rule (on head shots). I think there has to be if you want to eliminate the stuff."
"I hope that it does bring clarification to what’s allowed and what’s not," Cooke said. "I know that they worked hard on it. I know there are some concerns. I hope it brings clarification. I think it’s protecting guys in a certain area of the ice."
"I have not seen the wording (of the rule) yet," Bylsma said. "In conversations with coaches and players, the clarification of the ruling would help out in the situations that are arising right now with what is an illegal hit, what is not an illegal hit, what they’re looking for, what we want out of the game. More specific wording would help the clarification for everybody."
Even with the new rule, Cooke noted that it will still be very difficult to completely eliminate head shots from the game.
“My personal opinion on that is that the speed of the game is so great that it’s impossible to do that,” he said.
Crosby noted that while the rule is a step in the right direction, there are a lot of hits to the head that do not get the intention that Cooke’s hit received.
“There’s a lot of head shots that go on, whether the guy is hurt or gets right back up,” he said. “There are a lot more than the ones we see that make headlines.”
There has been some discussion that there could be reprisal action as a result of Cooke’s hit, either on him or some of the Penguins’ star players. However, no one in the Penguins’ circle seemed to think that opponents will treat them any differently.
“I don’t think players go out with that intention of going after heads,” Bylsma said. “Is it a physical game, do teams talk about being physical against our skilled players? Every game probably. I don’t think that’s going to change in the next 16 games for us and playoffs.”
Cooke was asked if he would be a marked man now. He replied:
“I don’t know if it’s any different than it was before.”