Aside from team reluctance to issue press passes, there are very few negative aspects of being a hockey blogger. You have the opportunity to write about what you’re passionate about and, in a lot of cases, actually get paid to sit and watch hockey. How cool is that! But one of the best things is that, in a world that still condescends to many sports bloggers as if they were little kids playing house, you have a little more journalistic freedom in your writing. Not to say we’re any lower than the media platform many sports teams and traditional media formats expect, but that’s always in the back of their minds even if they’re afraid to admit it.
Last night, Denver Post Colorado Avalanche beat writer Adrian Dater stooped to “our level”–perhaps lower–in his thorough dressing down of the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Cooke. Here’s some of what he had to say:
The one thing I can’t stand in life, and what 99.9 percent of you can’t stand either, is an unfair fight. Matt Cooke has only had the guts to fight fair a couple times in his NHL career, and he always got creamed in those situations. One of them was in a face-to-face fight with Steve Moore in 2004, and the Harvard boy Moore whupped him good. It was then left to Cooke’s teammate, Todd Bertuzzi, to cheap shot the end of Moore’s career with the Avs. Cooke is still in the NHL, though (as is Bertuzzi), which only goes to prove that bad guys finish, if not first, with long careers in the NHL.
I feel sorry for a bunch of people tonight. I feel sorry for Tyson Barrie, who just tries to play the game the right way, in having his season ended tonight on a knee-on-knee hit from Cooke. Patrick Roy said it’s 4-6 weeks for Barrie with an MCL injury, but from what I heard later that’s the optimistic view.
I feel sorry for Barrie because he’s just a kid who wanted to have a hockey game decided on a meritocracy. He’s a young, skilled, exciting player, but his season is probably over because of a dirty hit from a cowardly player.
I also feel sorry for many in my media profession, who wrote glowing profiles of Matt Cooke, the “reformed criminal.” It was all a coordinated PR plan by Cooke and his handlers, and the smart media people I know saw right through it, but many others were duped. I give Minneapolis Star-Tribune writer Jim Souhan huge props, for seeing through the Cooke con job from the start.
I feel sorry for the cuckolded Wild PR staff, who never made Cooke available tonight (probably on orders of management, but a media relations staff that gets it wouldn’t put up with that garbage) to be accountable for his night. Hockey is all about “accountability” right?
I feel sorry for the NHL, which has to put up with many “Matt Cooke Strikes Again” headlines Tuesday, instead of ones about honor of the sport and the genuine excitement of the playoffs.
I feel sorry for Matt Cooke himself. In a year or two, max, he’ll be out of the league. He’ll have no more money coming in, and he’ll have to sit and really look at what his career was all about. He’ll realize he had no respect of anybody in the game, and that will include his teammates – which will hurt the most. He’ll be filled with an old age of regret, a career of selling his hockey soul to the hockey devil. He’ll realize it wasn’t worth it, but by then it’ll be too late.
He then goes on to placate and not appear “homer-ish” with an appeal to the Wild players after their outstanding effort in the team’s hardest fought fight of the season in capturing a win in Game Three. Of course, he can’t do it without the obligatory backhanded compliment.
I most feel sorry for the other Wild players who are Cooke’s teammates. They played a tremendous game tonight. They absolutely were the better team and the right team won tonight. The Avs only had any chance at all because of Semyon Varlamov, period.
But the night’s story – and the story that will follow for the next day or two – will be about Matt Cooke. Wild players, along with their personality-challenged coach Mike Yeo – will have to answer awkward questions about Cooke and his dirty knee on Barrie. They’ll have to answer as to how they now have to play without Cooke for a few games, at minimum, because of his looming suspension. A great game played by the Wild has now been overshadowed by Matt Cooke.
He ends his rant with this lovely bit:
It’ll come around on the Wild at some point. One of their top guys will be taken out by someone. Suddenly, Mike Yeo will have very good vision again.
Alright, cut the crap. Yes, Cooke hasn’t been the league’s most upstanding citizen in his career. Yes, he’s made more than his fair share of mistakes. However, if you look at last night’s game, not to mention the way he’s played this season, Cooke has been nothing short of a leader for this Wild squad.
In 82 games this season, Cooke had 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points, a plus-8 rating and 54 penalty minutes while spending each game shutting down the best lines and players the league can assemble. That’s an average of one two-minute minor per every three games. Amongst Minnesota Wild players this season, Clayton Stoner, Kyle Brodziak, Nate Prosser and Zenon Konopka all had more. Yet where is all the outrage over them? Oh wait–that’s right–they’re not Matt Cooke, so they automatically get a free pass. This league, and many of the narrow-minded writers within it, are enough to drive a sane person mad.
What’s even worse, upon further review of the play, Cooke was going in for a shoulder-on-shoulder when Barrie thought he could outmaneuver the Wild grinder.
Sometimes it’s just better to take the hit and get up to play another shift. Unfortunately, it cost Barrie the rest of the year.
That’s not to say this shouldn’t be reviewed or that Barrie had it coming–the latter is just not the case at all. But the NHL will make its decision, Cooke will be suspended and the Avalanche will have an opportunity to answer on the ice. So let them do the talking, Mr. Dater, and stop making yourself look like an incensed armchair general manager. It doesn’t suit you.