By John Rolfe
Try as he might to live down his hard-earned reputation as the NHL’s dirtiest and most dangerous player, Matt Cooke can’t seem to escape the long shadow of suspicion. That becomes an increasingly difficult task when he continues to deliver potentially catastrophic hits like the knee-on-knee shot (one of the most common weapons in his dark arsenal) that will sideline Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie for four to six weeks. Cooke’s misdeed in Game 3 of Minnesota’s first round series against Colorado on Monday night moved the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to summon the Wild forward for a little face-to-face in New York City on Wednesday. As of this writing, the sixth suspension of his turbulent career is likely. How much time he’ll get is the big question. Cooke, who had drawn praise and even defenders for supposedly reforming his ugly game, had managed to stay out of the hoosegow, so to speak, since March 2011, but an in-person hearing usually heralds a stretch of more than five games.
Cooke’s rap sheet — which is as long as your proverbial arm — will surely work against him. The NHL can consider him a “repeat offender” under the terms of the new Collective Bargaining agreement, which scrubs a player’s record every 18 months only with regard to how much pay he’ll forfeit.