During the dying minutes of yesterday’s Penguins/Capitals game, Matt Cooke appeared to take down Ovechkin with a knee-on-knee hit. Cooke was given a two minute tripping penalty for the incident. But should he have been given more?
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau thinks so:
“It’s Matt Cooke, OK. Need we say more?” Boudreau said. “It’s not like it’s his first rodeo. He’s done it to everybody and then he goes to the ref and says, ‘What did I do?’ He knows darn well what he did. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s good at it and he knows how to do it, he knows how to pick this stuff. We as a League still buy into this that it was an accidental thing.”
Ovechkin didn’t seem to mind quite as much.
“That’s his game, he plays like that,” said Ovechkin. “It’s OK.”
Cooke defended his actions by saying “I just tracked the puck… He cut back on me. We clicked skates.”
During the broadcast, NBC commentator Mike Emrick alluded to a similar play from the 2009 playoffs where Ovechkin was giving rather than receiving:
Ovechkin was given a two minute penalty for that play.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Ovechkin deserved the hit yesterday, or that Cooke should go relatively unpunished. However, it does bring the matter of intent to the surface once again. Just like in the head shot debate, players are forgiven by the officials and the league if they did not intend to take out a knee. Yet, they are always penalized for high sticking infractions, whether or not intent is present.
Does intent matter? Should a player go unpunished for a reckless or dangerous play because he didn’t intend to hurt someone? Or should the fact that he wasn’t paying enough attention to avoid a head shot or a knee-on-knee collision be enough to call for a suspension?
Before the league can take these dangerous, potentially career-threatening plays out of the game, this is a question that it needs to answer.