Putting the Matt Cooke Issue to Rest

With round two starting tomorrow, discussions about Matt Cooke and Erik Karlsson are in full swing. It was highlighted by a tweet from Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.
Now Melnyk’s a little new to Twitter, so maybe he just doesn’t know how it works. Either that, or he doesn’t read tweets from any other fanbase. Mostly though, I’m confused as to what he was trying to accomplish with this tweet. Ever since he announced his forensic investigation of the Cooke/Karlsson incident, he has been ridiculed by several fanbases, including his own. I’ve spoken with several Ottawa fans that are embarrassed by his actions. Many of those fans have used the term “classless” in their opinions of Melnyk’s conduct. Therefore, I find it ironic that he feels the need to call out another fanbase for being classless over something that hockey fans, and twitter users in general, do all the time. Also, I find it ironic that he is telling Pens fans that it’s “just a game.” Well it’s a playoff game, so it’s more than a game, but I understand what he’s saying. I agree it’s just a game, but I don’t want to be told it’s just a game by the one person who made it anything else. Embarrassing our city, team, and players? No, I’m pretty sure you did that when you started this whole charade?

It Was Just a Hockey Play
I think it’s pretty common knowledge that the injury to Karlsson was an accident, but there will always be fans who refuse to believe it. One of the most common statements I’ve heard from Matt Cooke haters is that you don’t go into the boards like that, that’s not how you hit people. Well, if you’re one of those people, then I’m going to assume you’ve never actually played hockey. Going into the boards with your skate up, although not desirable, is very common. In fact, I almost made a similar play Friday when playing pick-up hockey. I was going into the boards with someone, tried to stop, and ran out of room. It happens. It happens all the time in the NHL, too.
Here are just a few examples:
I think the Zajac on Timonen picture provides a very good example. Had Timonen been facing the boards like Karlsson was, it would have been an identical hit. It probably wouldn’t have resulted in an injury because it was a freak accident, but it would have been the same play. Zajac’s foot is off the ice as he hits Timonen, but nothing is said. Why? Because it’s a perfectly acceptable and normal hockey play.

The Matt Cooke Hit
Everyone’s seen the picture of Cooke’s foot coming down on Karlsson’s skate. However, that one picture doesn’t show the entire play. First, let’s take a look at Cooke and Karlsson going into the boards.
As you can see, Cooke’s left knee is attempting to drive through the triangle between Karlsson’s legs to pin him to the boards. This is a typical example of finishing a check. If everything goes according to Cooke’s plan, nothing happens and Cooke hopefully is the one to come up with the puck. What leads to Cooke’s skate coming off the ice can be seen by the position of both Cooke’s right skate and Karlsson’s left skate. Once again, if you know anything about ice skating and stopping you would understand how the skates ended up in the positions they do. Both players are getting the inside edge to come to a stop. Cooke is using his right skate while Karlsson is using his left. The result? Cooke moves to the right and Karlsson moves to the left. But remember, Cooke is trying to finish a check and his left knee is caught behind Karlsson. Since the players pulled apart slightly it results in the check being off-center. Also, since Cooke is using his right inside edge to stop he is sliding to the right, but his left knee is still caught on Karlsson. Therefore, he is forced to pick his skate up off the ice in order to stop. Let’s now look at the picture once they are on the boards.
Karlsson is the first one into the boards and is the first to come to a stop. In the first picture his knees were bent while stopping. In the second, after coming to a stop, he is in an upright position. Cooke’s skate is still off the ice after being forced into that position to stop. His left knee was caught on Karlsson, but Karlsson has since straightened his leg. This has the effect of pulling a chair out from someone. He was using Karlsson’s lower leg to help balance himself as he stopped with his right skate and all of a sudden Karlsson’s leg straightens out. Just like pulling out a chair, Cooke’s left leg unexpectedly drops. And just like someone who has no control after having their chair pulled out, Cooke does not have time to react as his skate falls down to the ice, or in this case, Karlsson’s ankle.

Another important part of the second picture to look at is the position of Cooke’s head and the puck. He’s looking down and to the right. There’s no way he could have even seen Karlsson’s skate. Also, if you watch the video at full speed it takes a split second for this play to happen. After all that I’ve just described do you really think Cooke had time to strategically put his skate blade right between Karlsson’s skate and ankle? It would be almost impossible to do something like that on purpose.

Bottom line is that it was an accident. People need to move on. I know the Pens have. The Sens ownership and media have turned a freak accident into a conspiracy theory and forensic investigation when they should have just let it blow over. Now, even though Karlsson is back in the lineup, the upcoming series is going to be surrounded with talks of Cooke and Karlsson when discussion should focus on the matchup of the two teams.

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