By Mary Paoletti
I'm a fan of perspective.
As a story-teller, I realize there's often more than one side to everything and that both should be explored. Especially if the main character is being put on trial.
But don't insult my intelligence with a 'Matt Cooke's not a bad guy' angle.
This excerpt is from SI's story, "The Public Enemy":
Cooke is at an Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh's Strip District with John Lawrence and his family. Lawrence is 19. When he was 16, he suffered extensive brain and spinal injuries in a car accident and remained in a coma for 10 months. When Cooke heard about Lawrence through his foundation last fallMatt and his wife, Michelle, started the Cooke Family Foundation of Hope five years agohe invited Lawrence's family to the opener in Pittsburgh's new Consol Energy Center in October and took him to practice the following day. While Cooke was being trashed in the wake of the Ovechkin and Tyutin hits, Lawrence's father called a reporter at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review who previously had written about his son to say the city should know the other side of Matt Cooke. "John admired Matt's bravery and strength and turned to that when his rehab was rough," said his father, who is also named John. "Everybody was teasing John that his favorite guy was a dirty player, a goon, but Matt's just a guy who fights for his position on the team. A battler."
I thought of it today because at 1:30 p.m Cooke had a disciplinary meeting with Colin Campbell -- the third since February 6. He's accused of yet another dirty hit and the question is not if he'll get suspended again, but for how long.
Matt Cooke is rotten and I'm sick of hearing otherwise. He could start 15 foundations and it wouldn't matter. Why? This is a hockey problem. There can be no character witnesses who aren't employed by the NHL.
And this statement by Cooke -- "The biggest thing for me is that on the ice, there's a persona. It's what it is because that's what's made me successful. But that has nothing to do with who I am" -- is worthless.
This is what you aren't understanding, Matt: I don't care who you are as a person. On the ice -- as a hockey player -- you recklessly hurt opponents. And it needs to stop.
A Stanley Cup and nine 10-goal seasons in 10 years doesn't make someone who repeatedly hits guys in the head a tough, niche-player. There's a list of guys in the NHL who, despite philanthropy or impressive stats, will also be remembered as jerks because of dirty hits.
Here are a few. I hope the names make you feel less lonely, Cooke. The way guys with prison girlfriends don't feel lonely.
Off the Ice: Has participated in the Scotiabank ProAm hockey tournament that benefits the Gordie & Colleen Howe Fund for Alzheimer's. "To see people you love . . . slipping away. It's hard.'' McSorley said. Alzheimer's is terrifying; it's difficult not to sympathize.
On the Ice: Repped as one of the NHL's dirtiest players. He retired with 3,381 career penalty minutes. The video shows a hit on Donald Brashear that earned him a 1-year suspension from the NHL and an assault conviction in Canadian court. Seriously.
Off the Ice: Participated in team charity events that benefited the UConn Children's Cancer Fund. He's also golfed in the Gary Roberts and Friends celebrity tournament held to raise money for Jumpstart (helps low-income children succeed in school).
On the Ice: 13 suspensions in his first 12 seasons. Has injured: Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Greg Adams, Mike Gartner, Kevin Dineen, Peter Zezel, Pavel Bure, Paul Kariya, Wendel Clark and Martin Rucinsky. (What's that, four different countries?!) Marchment really shines at the 1:00 mark of this video.
Off the Ice: He's given countless sticks away to fans and charities. The Swede has played charity hockey in his home country as well.
On the Ice: Tuffe Uffe's fans and most teammates loved him. That's because they never opposed his elbows. "Ive never tried to put a player out for the season, Samuelsson once said. But it wouldnt bother me if I put a player out for a game.
Off the Ice: In 2009, Lemieux skated in "Battle of the Blades." The couples figure skating represented one or two charities. Shares respected hockey opinions on TSN's "Off the Record."
On the Ice: Another Stanley Cup winner. Snagged the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1995. Could also be a total dick. Biting Calgary's Jim Peplinski's finger in a fight was small time. Check out these classy moves. Dino Ciccarelli on Lemieux after the 1996 Detroit-Colorado series: "I can't believe I shook his freakin' hand."
He's considered a legend: Hall of Famer; four Stanley Cup finals; three 100-point seasons; three Hart Trophies. He was a much better hockey player than Matt Cooke could ever hope to be. He was also dirty.
While watching this video, keep in mind that this game was a "friendly" with Czechoslovakia.