In the defense of Jack Edwards


March 17, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing

Milan Lucic

(17) handles the puck against pressure from Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman

Brooks Orpik

(44) and left wing

Matt Cooke

(24) during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

During the Bruins-Penguins game, NESN announcer Jack Edwards (@RealJackEdwards on Twitter) fired an over the top broadside against Pittsburgh Penguins player Matt Cooke. “Nominating Cooke for the (Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy) is about the equivalent of nominating Sirhan Sirhan as the prisoner of the year.” To be completely fair to all parties, here is the entire rant from the game.

Yes, Jack Edwards (and members of Bruins Nation) are still a little bitter about what Cooke did a few seasons ago. So, did Cooke ‘assassinate’ Marc Savard? It’s not like Cooke’s hit ended Savard’s career.  Wait a second, it did.  As a Bruins fan, I can understand the perceived bias I may have, and perhaps I’m not being fair to Cooke.  Once again, in the name of fairness to all parties is Cooke ending Marc Savard’s NHL career. As a New Englander, I must be biased. So, I found a professional opinion on Cooke’s tactics.

So, perhaps I’m not offering enough evidence that Matt Cooke is a ‘dirty’ player. Here is a collection of cheap shots that Cooke has inflicted during his career in the NHL.

Oh wait, there’s more. At least Fedor Tyutin‘s career wasn’t ended by that hit.

I could be wrong here. I wonder what the NHL office has thought of Matt Cooke over the years.  Let’s add to the hit list Cooke’s attack (I’m sorry Mr. Shero, I meant the contact made by your player.) on New York Rangers player Ryan McDonagh. (Here’s a little more context.)  That hit finally inspired the league to lower the boom on him. That shot earned Cooke a ten game suspension plus the first round of the 2011 playoffs.

“Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position,” said NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations at the time Colin Campbell. “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”  What did Shero have to offer back then? In Shero’s own words, the hit against McDonagh was “exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game.”

With all of Cooke’s previous suspensions, infractions, and other just inappropriate plays, do you think Ray Shero might have taken the corresponding cheap shot with any dignity? Hardly. It didn’t take long for the General Manager of the Penguins to go ballistic. Perhaps Shero needed to take the hit on his player. (Or at least not go a medieval style witch hunt for Edwards in the Garden.) Shero felt morally wronged by Edwards. There was a discussion and Jack Edwards went on the air to apologize later for his comments. Jack Edwards also recanted his words on social media.

"I am sorry for insulting Matt Cooke, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the National Hockey League, and anyone else upset by my Cooke comments. — Jack Edwards (@RealJackEdwards) April 20, 2013"

So, Jack Edwards crossed a line.  He knew it, and he apologized on the air and to cyberspace. With all the tragedy coming out of Boston, I was kind of expecting Jack to give someone both barrels.  Jack has never been sparing with his comments over the years. I’ve commented on his bias at times. I’ve also commented on how Jack Edwards isn’t just a hockey commentator, but just another fan who loves this sport with a passion few of us can muster. (For example, the ‘It’ speech.)

Jack Edwards did not attack an innocent party though. While Matt Cooke is no Sirhan Sirhan, it is obvious that he will never win the Lady Byng.

In the last few years, Shero (and Cooke) have made attempts to rehabilitate the winger’s image as a clean, and thoughtful player. Perhaps they were successful in a ‘de-gooning’ of Cooke?

So, let us review the recent activities of this ‘clean and thoughtful’ player. On February 13, 2013, Cooke was involved in an incident with the current holder of the Norris Trophy Erik Karlsson.  During that game against the Ottawa Senators, Karlsson’s achilles tendon was cut by Cooke’s skate as the two made contact along the boards. Did the ‘clean and thoughtful’ player get any suspension for that hit?

No.  Since the Penguins GM is so distraught over Cooke, let’s see what the Senators front office had to say about it. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk was outraged by the incident, stating “To have him [Karlsson] taken out by a goon is unconscionable. It’s something that never should have happened. This player [Cooke]should never be playing in this league. It’s a league for elite players”.

The end result is that Matt Cooke hasn’t learned his lesson. The only thing I can see is a player that has gone out of his way to make his plays look cleaner. It reminds me of painting a house after a fire. Sure, a nice veneer will cover the soot and the scars, but the dirt will always be there.