After Brad Marchand’s actions during Boston’s game against Columbus, people are furious. While punching a player in the back of the head is inexcusable and should be punished, Marchand is nowhere near as dirty as some players, such as Matt Cooke. If you do not know who that is, he is the man who effectively ended a Marc Savard’s career and had the rules changed because of his actions.
Matt Cooke’s Hit on Marc Savard Hit
In Boston, Matt Cooke is despised. He is, in my mind and many others’, responsible for the end of Marc Savard’s career. If you have not seen or forget the hit, here it is.
This happened on March 7, 2010. Savard did return for the playoffs, but the following offseason, Savard was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. This caused him to miss the first 23 games. After his return, Savard suffered another concussion, and never played another game. How was Cooke punished by the league for this?
Cooke was not penalized for this hit, nor was he fined or suspended. While Cooke said he did not intend to injure Savard, fans, executives, and players alike were furious about this decision. Bruin’s GM, Peter Chiarelli, called it a “very surgical hit to the head.” Of course he would say this, he was part of the Bruins. However, Cooke’s teammate at the time, Bill Guerin said, “If a guy gets hurt like that with a shot to the head, there’s got to be something.” When your teammate calls you out like that, what you did is inexcusable. The league eventually realized their mistake, and decided to crack down on blindside hits to the head. This shows the severity of what Cooke did, and the impact his play style had on the game.
Ok, maybe I’m just a salty Bruins fan. That may be true, but I also don’t like seeing any players career get cut short by injuries. This is also not my only example.
The Ryan McDonagh Hit
To find the next example of Matt Cooke being dirty, you have to go all the way to… the next season. This came in the form of an elbow to Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
If you want to argue the Savard hit was Cooke playing hard and technically within the rules, fine. I think you’re wrong, but fine. This hit is clearly illegal, as you can see Cooke raise his elbow as he goes to hit McDonagh. For this hit, Cooke was suspended the final ten games of the regular season, as well as the playoffs. During this time off, Cooke vowed to “change his game,” and try to be less dirty.
Changing Cooke’s Game
Matt Cooke did change his game, at least for a while. Other than a minor incident (in terms of Cooke’s guilt) in 2013 in which Erik Karlsson tore his achilles on Cooke’s skate during a hit, Cooke had no issues for three years. This all changed during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, in which he delivered a knee-on-knee hit to Av’s defenseman Tyson Barrie. Cooke was later suspended for seven games due to his actions. Matt Cooke retired after being placed on waivers in the 2015 season, and subsequently retired.
Does this Excuse Marchand’s Actions?
No, this does not excuse what Brad Marchand did. Punching a player in the back of the head purposefully is inexcusable, and has no place in the game. At the same time, Marchand has been vilified for his actions, which I also disagree with. Yes, what Marchand did was wrong. At the same time, it should not define his career, unlike Matt Cooke, who should be remembered for his dirty play, and the injuries he caused.
If you want to see Matt Cooke get his ass beat, look at this article about the best fights in the NHL.
If you disagree with me, let me have it on Twitter @langles96.