Report: Pens' Cooke: 'I need to change'
Pittsburgh Penguins' winger Matt Cooke said he takes "full responsibility" for the vicious hit that led to his suspension for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday.
"I realize and understand, more so now than ever, that I need to change," Cooke told the Post-Gazette Monday night. "That's what I wanted my message to be."
Cooke's message was intended for the league's chief on disciplinary matters Colin Campbell, who held a closed door meeting with the Penguins' forward on Monday to discuss his fate.
"I'm fortunate that Ryan McDonagh wasn't hurt," Cooke added. "I don't want to hurt anybody. That's not my intention. I know that I can be better. ... I made a mistake, and I'm the one who's accountable for that. And I take full responsibility for it."
Cooke, 32, has built a reputation during his 11-year career as the one of the NHL's dirtiest players. Monday's decision marked Cooke's fifth league suspension for hits to the head of an opposing player. He served a four-game ban last month for a hit from behind on Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin.
"Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position," Campbell said Monday. "This isn't the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response."
Cooke will miss the remaining 10 games on the Penguins' regular season schedule before sitting out the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Cooke will also forfeit $219,512 in salary.
The Penguins front office fully accepted the NHL's decision, adding the team has informed Cooke to clean up his play.
"The suspension is warranted because that's exactly the kind of hit we're trying to get out of the game," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said in a statement on the team's official website.
"Head shots have no place in hockey. We've told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message."
Penguins owner Mario Lemieux declined comment through a team official, according to the Post-Gazette.
Lemieux blasted the NHL in February following a fight-filled game between the Penguins and Islanders that witnessed an astounding 346 penalty minutes.
"We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players," Lemieux said at the time. "We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.
"The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed."
Cooke's hit to McDonagh was delivered from behind. The Penguins' veteran was assessed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct in the 5-2 Penguins' loss.