Last summer before a game, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis took the ceremonial "first shot" for the Altoona Curve, the Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was Matt Cooke's turn last night to do the honors, shooting a puck off a board in front of the pitcher's mound:
Cooke last played on March 20 after being suspended by the NHL for elbowing New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the head. The NHL banned him for the final 10 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, where the Penguins fall to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. It was his second suspension in the span of a month.
After signing autographs for over two and a half hours at Blair County Ballpark, Cooke spoke about his reformed ways. From the Altoona Mirror:
"It's a mentality, it's how I'm going to approach the game,'' Cooke said of his plan to clean up his act. "And the team has worked hard in supporting me to accomplish these minor tweaks in my game.''
Cooke took the same approach yesterday before the game in an interview with Joe Starkey on Sportsradio 93.7 The FAN in Pittsburgh saying, "I hurt my teammates last year and I know that. I fully intend to make it up to them this year."
All eyes will be on Cooke this season, specifically new NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. It's clear he's walking a tightrope going forward, and his on-ice actions will be scrutinized by everyone, including the Penguins.