Sorting through Matt Cooke's proclamation

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Sorting through Matt Cooke's proclamation

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

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.

Brady on whether he called Trump: 'I've called him in the past'

Brady on whether he called Trump: 'I've called him in the past'

When President Donald Trump announced last week that he'd received a phone call from Tom Brady, Brady's response when questioned by reporters at a mass press conference was "Let's talk about football."

This morning, during his weekly interview on WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show, Brady shed a little more light onto the subject.

Though not a whole lot more.

"I have called him, yes, in the past," Brady said when given the chance the confirm or deny the call.  "Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,. But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”

He also explained why he chooses to dance around this topict . . . and a lot of others.

“I’m a pretty positive person, so I don’t want to create any distractions for our team and so forth,” he said. “I just try and stay positive and actually this world could use a little more positivity. Everything’s not great in this world and everything is not great in life. But if you try and take a positive approach … I try to do that. I try to do that in practice. I try to do that with my team. I try to do that with my family. That’s how I go about life. I don’t like negativity. I don’t like a lot of confrontation. Those things don’t make me feel very good. I wouldn’t be a good talk show host."

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

FOXBORO -- There's a clock on the wall in the weight room at Tom Brady's house.

When the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game last January, Brady's father told me his son set the clock to count away the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Super Bowl 51. That clock has just 13 days left on it now. It won't require a sad resetting this week.

Brady won't be around to see it hit zeroes. He'll be in Texas playing in his record seventh Super Bowl. As planned.

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

HERE THEY COME, ROGER

The Patriots are the last team the NFL apparatus wanted to see in Houston and now the boogeyman's at their door, proving that living well is the best revenge.

Nowhere to run to, Roger. Nowhere to hide. The rules apply to everyone and there's a rule that we all learn sooner or later is very true. What goes around comes around. We all have it coming, kid.

We imagine Brady is clearing his throat for the delicious last laugh, but he's said it a hundred different ways in the past four months: Vengeance and vindication aren't driving him. That's wasted energy. Poison.

He's focused on what's immediately in front of him while reminding himself time's fleeting. The best way for him to help his team during his four-game exile in September was to work out relentlessly, which he did so that when he returned he was as good as he's ever been.

And in his absence, his team understood the best way to honor him while he was gone was to take care of business. Which they did beginning September 12 in Arizona when, instead of playing rudderless football without their on-field leader, they began a 3-1 run with a combination of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.

"Yeah, well we never dwell on that," Bill Belichick began when I asked him Sunday night about the obstacles the team's had in front of it beginning in September and through the rest of the season. "We take the hand that we're dealt and play the cards . . .

"You referenced the beginning of the year, but it's been true in every game, really," Belichick added. "It's a credit to those guys. It's a credit to the depth on our team and the way that those guys prepare. They work hard. They don't know if they're going to get an opportunity or not and then when it finally comes and they do get it, they're usually ready to take advantage of it and help the team win. That's why we're where we are. We have a special team, a special group of guys that really work hard. They deserve the success that they've had. I mean, it's hard to win 16 games in this league. You've got to give a lot of credit to the players and the job they've done all year week after week. It's tough, but they come in and grind it out. They sit in these seats for hours, and hours, and hours, and prepare, and prepare, and go out there and lay it on the line every week. Again, it's a good group of men."

Beginning in the offseason with the trade of Chandler Jones to the start of the season with the Brady suspension to the stunning trade of Jamie Collins, the loss of Rob Gronkowski and a defense that was scoffed at on a weekly basis, the Patriots have weathered all of it to get to this point.

"One More" is the marketing slogan this team's had affixed to it.

"Bend Don't Break" is much more apt. Because they never did.

It's a phrase that's been framed as a slight by when used to describe the New England defense this season but safety Duron Harmon had a different interpretation.

"I don't know. I kind of like it," he said. "It just shows the type of toughness and mental toughness we have. Even when the situation might seem terrible or might seem bad, we have enough mental toughness to come out and make a positive out of it."

Harmon and Patrick Chung hauled down Steelers tight end Jesse James inches short of a touchdown just before halftime. The Patriots defense held after that, forcing Pittsburgh to settle for a deflating field goal. Instead of a 17-13 lead at halftime, the Pats led 17-9.

"Right then and there, a lot of people are thinking that's seven points, but that's a four-point turnover basically," said Harmon. "Just hold them to three and that really helped us with the momentum going into [halftime]."

When one considers all the collateral damage of Deflategate and the fortunes of the antagonists and protagonists since, it's . . . well, it's telling.

The Colts canned tattletale GM Ryan Grigson on Saturday and are in disarray. The Ravens missed the playoffs again. Owners who fingerwagged and wanted to see the Patriots brought to heel like John Mara, Bob McNair, Jerry Jones and Jerry Richardson have teams that were either bounced from the playoffs or didn't even make them.

And the Patriots are headed to Houston anyway. Despite all their best efforts.

"I think it's a great story, but I think right now our focus is got to go out to Houston in a couple of weeks and try to win it," said Devin McCourty when asked about the revenge angle. "I think that makes the story even better."