Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk was highly critical of the style of play of Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke in an interview with TSN.
Cooke was involved in the play that led to a season-ending injury to Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who had to have surgery to repair his Achilles tendon, which was sliced by Cooke’s skate blade.
“To have [Karlsson] taken out by a goon is unconscionable,” Melnyk told TSN on Friday. “Whether it was accidental, or whether it was reckless, or whether it was intentional, to me it doesn’t matter.
“It’s something that never should have happened. This player should never be playing in this league. It’s a league for elite players.”
Cooke has been suspended five times in his career, but he has not been suspended since March 2011 and says he has changed his ways. Melnyk remains skeptical.
“I don’t buy any of that garbage,” Melnyk said, according to the report. “Five times? No, we’re No. 6? How about seven and eight? At what point do you say, ‘You know what? Maybe he’s not changed.’ You do this enough times, don’t try to convince me or anybody else. People are way too intelligent. The guy gets suspended five times. That’s how many times he’s been suspended, never mind how many times he’s not been suspended.
“I’m just shocked that that organization employs that type of individual.
“The league has its own way of working. They have their job, we have our job. At the end of the day, they are responsible for this. This is a reflection on the NHL. But saying that, if they’re right, they’re right. We have a different view at this point.
“Over the coming weeks, we’ll get to the bottom of it. ... You can’t see it on camera, that’s why you can’t blame the league for this or anyone else. On camera you look at it, but when you look at it logically, you’ve got a blade that has to cut through socks, has to then cut through skin, fat, muscle, everything that protects the tendon, then cuts 70 percent of the tendon.”
“You will forget about guys like him [Cooke] in a year or two because they won’t be playing in the league. He’s done it to us; he’s done it to others. If he thinks it’s cool to be the tough goon, then that’s his business, but people aren’t going to put up with him. We’re certainly not going to put up with him. ... He’s on a watch list now. Everybody should know it.
“You certainly don’t belong in this league, and the faster you’re gone, the better.”
Cooke told the Winnipeg that he texted Karlsson, but “whether or not he responds to me, I understand. At the end of the day, it was a freak, unfortunate accident and I can’t control anything else but that.”
Cooke also said he understands Melnyk’s frustration and was “sorry” that Melnyk believes Cooke shouldn’t be in the NHL.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero defended Cooke in an interview with ESPN.com on Thursday.
“I feel horrible for Erik Karlsson; I feel bad for Ottawa,” Shero said. “It’s a bad feeling. But I can’t rationalize where that was a dirty play or anything with intent. Our fan base knows how it feels to lose a star player. It’s emotional. I know how it feels like. It’s just very unfortunate. I would not be defending Matt Cooke if I thought it was a dirty hockey play.”