Sunday, June 2, 2013

How Matt Cooke was blindsided.

I think we can all agree that Matt Cooke deserved to go to the box for his hit into the boards on Bruins' defenseman Adam McQuaid, but the refs once again blew the call when they sent him to the locker room with a five minute major and game misconduct.

Cookie was called for "checking from behind", a penalty covered under rule 43 in the NHL Rulebook.  So what does rule 43 state?

Rule 43 – Checking from Behind
43.1 Checking from Behind – A check from behind is a check delivered
on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to
protect or defend himself, and contact is made on the back part of the
body. When a player intentionally turns his body to create contact with
his back, no penalty shall be assessed.

Most everyone has probably seen the replay, NHL Network highlighted it beautifully, that shows McQuaid clearing look back to see Cooke coming in for the hit.  He of course turns his back to play the puck on the boards rather than do anything to protect himself from the hit, and Cooke finished his check.  The mere fact that he knew the hit was coming means the wrong call was made.

So what, you say, the refs could just have easily called him for boarding.  It appears that would have been the correct call in this case.  While McQuaid knowingly put himself in a vulnerable position, rule 41.1 pretty clearly states that "the onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact."  

But if the correct call had been made, then the refs would have had the leeway to hand out the more appropriate two minute minor variety, an option that is not available on the checking from behind call, which is an automatic five minutes and a game misconduct.  Granted, it's #24, so they probably would have slapped him with a major anyway, but at least they'd have been closer to making the right call.  Also, the game misconduct wouldn't have been automatic with the boarding call as it is with checking from behind, and in fact would only be assessed if the ref determined there was an injury to the face or head, which there wasn't.

Apparently the league agrees the wrong call was made, since there is to be no supplementary discipline for the hit, which it seems would have been a no-brainer based on his history alone.

In the end, it was another case of Matt Cooke being penalized for being Matt Cooke.

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