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NHL 'dove' Regier applauds Cooke suspension

It would be entirely understandable for Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier to revel in the fact he and his fellow "doves" are scoring big points in the argument regarding head shots in the NHL.

But that's not what Regier is about - what he and allies like Pittsburgh's Ray Shero, Carolina's Jim Rutherford, and Montreal's Pierre Gauthier are after is lasting change.

And the hefty suspension to the Penguins' Matt Cooke is a further shift toward that objective, Regier said.

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"(The punishment) is entirely appropriate, I applaud the NHL, and I accept that some day it might be a Buffalo Sabre who's in that position," Regier said after his team's optional pre-game skate at the Bell Centre. "I think it's a very important message . . . it will act as a deterrent not just for this individual but for the entire league."

But it's just one step.

Regier continued to say that it's not sufficient to try and tame a notorious miscreant like Cooke, that the league needs to rid itself of the "cheap stuff" as a tactic and style of play.

"You have an obligation first and foremost to play hockey. Then you can play hockey in a tough and physical way," said Regier, who is one of the NHL's leading voices in favour of curbing head injuries and dangerous play.

Sabres right winger Jason Pominville, himself the victim of a head shot from Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson earlier this season (the latter got a two-game suspension), said the aspect that resonates perhaps even louder than the suspension itself within NHL dressing rooms is the fact the Penguins publicly supported the league's crackdown.

"To see a general manager say that? It sends a message to the players but also to everyone across the league," Pominville said.

The 28-year-old sniper, who admits he likely returned too soon from the concussion he suffered when Hjalmarsson hit him into the boards from behind last October, allowed that while the Cooke suspension is sure to act as a deterrent to others, few players and organizations will be willing to remonstrate against one of their own in the way Pittsburgh has.

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"That's hard to do, I know I wouldn't speak out against a teammate in public . . . but we saw it earlier this year in Boston (where Andrew Ference called out teammate Daniel Paille for a blindside hit) but it's not an easy thing to do," he said.

Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff, the league's longest-serving bench boss, also saluted the NHL's decision on Cooke, saying "the league nailed that one."

Ruff was also asked if he'd had a word with his players to adjust their play in light of the sanction, he laughed and said "players can see it, I don't need to talk to them."

"Any guy who has a head shot in his history now, or a deliberate attempt, the message is pretty clear," Ruff said. "And it's a good message."

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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