Penguins' Cooke won't be suspended
Scott Burnside: Policy Needs More Teeth
The NHL GMs' proposal outlawing blindside hits to the head needs mandatory punishment, rather than counting on discipline from the league office, writes Scott Burnside. Blog
NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell made the announcement Wednesday at the general managers' meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. Penguins general manager Ray Shero also confirmed the news to ESPN.com via e-mail.
Cooke delivered a blindside hit with his shoulder to Savard in the third period of Sunday's game. Savard was taken away on a stretcher and has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 concussion. He is out indefinitely, and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has said Savard possibly could miss the remainder of the season.
Doctors will continue to evaluate Savard during the next several days before determining how long the star center might be out.
"I'm surprised and angered [by the lack of suspension]," Chiarelli said in a conference call, according to Comcast New England. "The last few days I've been lobbying the Hockey Ops staff with respect to the Cooke hit on Savard, and I really felt strongly. The issue here is that they felt there was no infraction: he didn't leave his feet, he didn't charge, he didn't use an elbow. They ruled it was a shoulder hit to the head. It was a very surgical hit to the head."
"I don't know what to say. Of course we thought he would be suspended," Bruins forward Steve Begin said, according to the Boston Herald. "We thought the league would take care of it. They've been talking about shots to the head for a while and now they have a perfect example and they don't do anything about it."
Campbell told reporters he needed to remain consistent in his decision -- he also did not suspend Philadelphia center Mike Richards for a similar hit on Florida winger David Booth on Oct. 24. That hit resulted in a Grade 3 concussion that sidelined Booth for 45 games. His first game after the hit was Jan. 31.
Under the new guidelines recommended by GMs on Wednesday at the conclusion of their meetings, both hits would have been subject to a penalty and a possible suspension next season. The recommendation of a rule change still needs to be approved by the NHL/NHLPA competition committee and by the league's board of governors.
"I know it's not something that Boston fans, or hockey fans would like to hear," Campbell said, according to TSN. "They want justice. We feel we have to be consistent and do what we feel is right and hopefully we've gone to a place in our meetings today that we can eradicate plays like this in the future."
Cooke has a recent history of hits to the head. He was suspended for two games in November 2009 after checking Rangers center Artem Anisimov in the head. He was suspended again, also for two games, for hitting Hurricanes forward Scott Walker in the head in January.
"I know Matt Cooke is a repeat offender, he's been suspended twice in the last year," Campbell said, according to TSN of Canada. "I can't suspend Matt Cooke for being a repeat offender, I have to find a reason. Right now our rules say that shoulders to head are legal. Matt Cooke did not jump, and did not do anything that we found illegal in his actions even though again you don't like what happened," added Campbell.
Cooke and the Penguins visit Boston on March 18.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.