Sorting through Matt Cooke's proclamation


Sorting through Matt Cooke's proclamation

By Mary Paoletti

My best wishes to Matt Cooke's family.

His wife, Michelle, nearly died last spring because of a clogged exit valve in her kidney -- a terrifying experience for any person. I'd imagine. I don't actually have any idea what that's like. I don't know the depth of Michelle or even Matt's pain, nor do I know what trials his family went through because of her health scare.

I can only hope things are better.

On an unrelated note, I hope with wrathful seriousness Matt Cooke's promise to change his hockey style is honest.

He tries to link the two together -- Michelle's illness and his disgraceful, dangerous hits -- and Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux is supporting it.

As a fan of hockey, I don't think I can.

"I don't want to hurt anybody," he said in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He added that he plans to change "(his) approach" to hitting.

The suffering of the woman he married, the strain on their children... Cooke says it gave him perspective. So much so, that after he hit Ryan McDonagh with an elbow to the head March 20 (the first game his wife was healthy enough to attend since January 1) he was inspired to watch 20 hours of hits to "learn how to deliver a legal check."

This is viewed as a turning point, as an exercise in maturity.

"No more elbows. No more blindside shots. No more of the hits that have garnered him the reputation as the NHL's dirtiest player, a so-called cheap-shot artist who has been suspended four times for illegal hits in three seasons since joining the Penguins," Rob Rossi writes.

I wonder why it had to take so long.

I wonder if Marc Savard has heard about this. I wonder if he's thrilled that Cooke has "seen the light." I wonder if Savard plans to send the Penguins forward a note, something like, "Good for you, man. We all grow at different times. Sometimes lessons are learned the hard way."

Or maybe Savard is pissed off. Maybe he's frustrated it took a personal trauma, instead of the one inflicted on Savard, for Cooke to want to reevaluate his reckless habits.

Again, I can only guess. Not much has been heard from Savard since he was shut down.

So I wonder what to think. Do you celebrate a villain for turning penitent, no matter how late it happens or why? Ignore the promise until it's fulfilled?

Or is it too late for some? Are some pasts unforgivable?

It's difficult to distill the hockey lesson from Matt and Michelle Cooke's.

The latter is heartbreakingly relatable. Readers can empathize, if not because the specific illness but because of a grandfather who had a stroke, an aunt who had cancer, a cousin who was injured in an accident and needed help caring for his children.

But some won't sympathize.

Partially because the two sides of Matt Cooke -- personal and professional -- have never synced up. Hockey fans are told the man isn't a monster because of the Cooke Family Foundation of hope (created because his niece was born without a heartbeat), because he calls home first after every game and because of "tender scenes" between he and his family exposed by "HBO 247".

Some of those fans aren't moved, though. Especially because Cooke's stake in each instance of compassion is obvious: he cares for those close to his heart; the instinct to protect his pack is strong.

But what about those who don't share his blood?

That's what McDonagh, Savard, Fedor Tyutin, Alexander Ovechkin, Steve Montador, Evander Kane, Keith Yandle, Erik Karlsson, Rick DiPietro, Andrei Markov, Artem Anisimov, Chris Osgood, and others might want to know. They might not think so highly of a bedside promise -- those that can fade as the pain does.

I'll wait and see what happens.

I can only be hopeful that Matt Cooke's vow to clean up his game is sincere. As long as he's a member of the NHL, that's all I can do.

I'm just not sure it can do anything for Marc Savard.

Stars, studs and duds: Stevens shows confidence in Brown


Stars, studs and duds: Stevens shows confidence in Brown

Jaylen Brown made a costly turnover in the final minute that contributed to Boston’s 105-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

The fact that he was even in the game at that point speaks to not just his potential, but the level of confidence the rookie has already garnered from the Boston Celtics coaching staff.

Brown, who had nine points on 4-for-7 shooting on Thursday, turned the ball over with less than a minute to play and the Celtics trailing 101-99 at the time.

Moments after the turnover, Chicago’s Dwyane Wade drained a step-back 3-pointer that sealed the Bulls’ victory.

Disappointed with the game’s outcome, Brown acknowledged that it meant a lot to him for Stevens to have enough confidence in him to keep him on the floor down the stretch.

But with that faith comes added pressure for Brown to come through and deliver.

“It means I have to do better and try and execute for my team and earn everything I get,” Brown told reporters after the game. “I don’t want anything given to me just because I’m the number three pick in the draft.”

Stevens was asked about having Brown on the floor in the game’s closing seconds.

“He (Brown) was playing pretty well and I thought we were better off playing small,” Stevens said. “I wanted to keep Jaylen in there. I thought he did a lot of good things tonight.”

“Obviously that play didn’t go his way,” Stevens said.

On the play in question, Brown was matched up with Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic. Brown began to make a move, and eventually spun away from Mirotic and left his feet.

Brown was called for the turnover when he left his feet to make a pass, but didn’t release the ball until after he had landed – a traveling violation.

“I was looking for an outlet,” said Brown in explaining his late-game miscue. “I should have just shot the ball but I was thinking it was a bad shot. I probably should have just shot it. I just saw Mirotic on me, slower feet. Coach (Stevens) told me to drive him so I tried to be aggressive. I should have made a play.”

Brown added, “Just have to come out and execute, and play the game the right way. I want to make coach feel like he has a reason to put me out on the floor.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Thursday night’s game.



Dwyane Wade

The Chicago native gave his family and friends plenty to cheer about on Thursday. In his first game playing for his hometown Chicago Bulls, Wade had 22 points which included a back-breaking 3-pointer with 26 seconds to play that pretty much sealed the Bulls victory. Consider this: He made a total of seven 3-pointers all last season. He had four on Thursday.

Isaiah Thomas

For the second straight game, Thomas tallied 25 points and continued to shoot the ball extremely well. His 25 points on Thursday came on 10-for-15 shooting. He also had four assists and three rebounds.

Jimmy Butler

Butler was among the Chicago players who shot the ball much, much better from 3-point range than they usually do. He finished with a team-high 24 points which included him knocking down four of his six 3-point attempts.



Avery Bradley

Bradley provided a nice offensive complement to Thomas’ high scoring night, finishing with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Bradley also made his presence felt on the boards and as a distributor with six rebounds and five assists.

Nikola Mirotic

He may have lost out on a starting job to Taj Gibson, but Mirotic’s value to the Bulls is clear. Mirotic had 15 points off the bench, shooting 6-for-11 from the field in addition to nine rebounds.



Second-chance points

Boston’s only two games into the season, but second-chance points looks to be an issue with no clear-cut solution. For the second straight game, Boston was outscored by double digits in second-chance points. On Thursday, Chicago had an 18-5 advantage in second-chance points.