Matt Cooke Hate Night in Ottawa was thankfully devoid of on-ice vengeance for the accidental – no matter what the Federal Bureau of Eugene Melnyk uncovers – slicing of Erik Karlsson’s leg. He was goaded a few times, and didn’t take the bait.
Ah, but don’t worry: The media picked up the fight. There was Ottawa Sun columnist Don Brennan’s ode to his testicles in describing a confrontation with Cooke; and there was this Mike Milbury rant on Cooke during NBC Sports Network’s studio show:
For the video impaired:
“Remember the Marc Savard hit? It was a nasty, dirty hit, but it was still deemed legal. After that he decided he was going to be a changed man. We then saw the Karlsson incident, which was a problem after that. But this … didn’t you get in trouble for using the word ‘gutless’, Jeremy?”
(Ed. Note: Yes, he did.)
“So I can’t use ‘gutless’. Should I try putrid or coward? Because this guy’s a skunk. He’s a FREAKIN’ skunk.”
With that, Milbury reacted to a low hit on Adam McQuaid in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ win over the Boston Bruins last weekend, which he then called “gutless.”
Guess he will use the word ...
Thus continues the evolution of Mike Milbury’s opinion on Matt Cooke after the Marc Savard incident.
Please recall March 2010, when Milbury didn’t think Cooke was a skunk or even a “slug”:
“The word predatory does come to mind. And you know, I don’t have any trouble with that. When you’re playing hockey, you’re supposed to finish your checks. I don’t think he meant to give him a Grade 2 concussion. That’s Matt Cooke’s game. He’s supposed to be a guy that finishes his checks, that agitates a little bit, that can play a little bit of hockey. He’s not a slug, But he’s no Sidney Crosby. His job is to make sure he punishes people when he gets the opportunity. Intent to injure? I don’t know. That’s a hard one to pin on anybody. Certainly, ready to finish his check with authority.”
One year later, in Feb. 2011, his opinion changed following a Cooke suspension for hitting Fedor Tyutin:
"He's crossing the line way too often," Milbury said. "It's time to give this guy a wakeup call before he really does hurt someone else."
Added Milbury: "You would think that after the Savard incident that Cooke would temper his enthusiasm, for lack of a better description. But it hasn't seemed to deter him at all. ... He's a little bit of a scumbag. And now he's turning out to be more than that. He won't change, and that's trouble."
Then, in Feb. 2013 after the Erik Karlsson skate slash, Milbury said:
“He’s been really good since the Savard thing. I can see you’re convicting this guy based on reputation.”
Which brings us to Monday night, and Milbury on the McQuaid hit:
“This guy gets away with it on the margins. I think he’s a skunk.”
Well, maybe. Something certainly stinks here.