These punishments and incidents often become big news items and take away from all the positive strides the NHL has made over the past decade.
Although Matt Cooke of the Minnesota Wild has never scored more than 20 goals in an NHL season, his name is constantly in the news. Cooke and other players of the same mold bring negative attention to the league and entire sport through dirty hits, on ice agitating, attacks on star players and numerous suspensions.
Since the 2008-2009 season, Cooke has been suspended for hits on Artem Anisimov, Scott Walker, Marc Savard, Fedor Tyutin and Ryan McDonagh. The hit on McDonagh earned Cooke the longest suspension of his career when he was forced to sit out the final ten games of the 2010-2011 regular season and first round of the playoffs. Cooke vowed to change his ways. Nevertheless, moving forward he was still involved in a questionable play that resulted in a serious injury to Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, one of the league’s top defensemen who was forced out of action for months
Let me be clear. A good, clean fight will always be a part of hockey. However, that’s not what we’re talking about here. Clearly, Cooke has been nothing short of a designated goon whenever he’s in the game and that only serves to damage the league’s reputation. Hockey is dangerous enough when played in a clean and respectful manner; the sport doesn’t need cheap shot artists ruining the careers of its star players or anyone for that matter.
The NHL needs its marquee players on the ice and in the news in order to climb back to the top of the American sports landscape. Players like Cooke, those who consistently injure other players and bring negative attention to the game, should be permanently banned from the National Hockey League.