Matt Cooke

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Matt Cooke

Cooke with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010.
Born(1978-09-07) September 7, 1978 (age 34)
Belleville, ON, CAN
Height5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 lb)
PositionLeft Wing
NHL team
Former teams
Pittsburgh Penguins
Vancouver Canucks
Washington Capitals
National team Canada
NHL Draft144th overall, 1997
Vancouver Canucks[1]
Playing career1998–present
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Matt Cooke

Cooke with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010.
Born(1978-09-07) September 7, 1978 (age 34)
Belleville, ON, CAN
Height5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 lb)
PositionLeft Wing
NHL team
Former teams
Pittsburgh Penguins
Vancouver Canucks
Washington Capitals
National team Canada
NHL Draft144th overall, 1997
Vancouver Canucks[1]
Playing career1998–present

Matthew David Cooke (born September 7, 1978) is a Canadian professional ice hockey player currently playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League (NHL). Cooke won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh during the 2008–09 NHL season. Cooke was member of the Team Canada at the 2004 World Championships which won the gold medal. He has also played in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals.

Cooke's playing style of intentionally attempting to aggravate opponents has earned him the reputation of one of the NHL's "pests". During his NHL career Cooke has been suspended for several much criticized hits, some involving head-shots that injured opposing players, most notably Marc Savard in 2010. Cooke was an important factor influencing NHL rule changes intended to deter such conduct. After his longest suspension in 2011, Cooke has pledged to change his style of play. Although he is no longer a member of the Vancouver Canucks' organization, he is still active in the Vancouver community with his wife as they run The Cooke Family Foundation of Hope.[2]


Playing career

Cooke played major junior in the Ontario Hockey League for three seasons predominantly with the Windsor Spitfires prior to playing professionally. Recording an impressive 95-point (10th overall in the league), 146-penalty-minute campaign in his second OHL season, he was drafted 144th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.[1] Returning to the OHL for a third season after being drafted, he was traded from Windsor to Kingston on December 17, 1997, in exchange for Brent L'Heureux. Cooke would finish the season and his OHL career with Kingston.

Cooke with the Vancouver Canucks in 2007.

Splitting the 1998–99 and 1999–2000 seasons between the Canucks and their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, Cooke would play for the Canucks full-time in 2000-01.

Typically playing in the role of a checking winger, Cooke recorded a career-high 42 points in 2002–03 and earned the Fred J. Hume Award as the team's unsung hero.[3] Continuing to show offensive capabilities, after returning from an injury in 2003–04, he was promoted to the Canucks' top line towards the end of the season. On account of Todd Bertuzzi's infamous suspension, Cooke joined Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison on the Canucks' top line for the final thirteen games of the season and the playoffs.[4]

Perhaps Cooke's most memorable moment with the Canucks occurred during this stint on the first line as the Canucks entered the 2004 playoffs against the Calgary Flames. With the Canucks down by a goal in the final minute of the series-deciding seventh game, Cooke drove the net on a Markus Naslund rush and dramatically tied the score with 5 seconds to go in regulation – it was also Cooke's second goal of the game. However, as the Canucks were short-handed at the time, Calgary began the overtime period on the powerplay and clinched the series.[5]

After a year of inactivity on account of the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Cooke would play two more full seasons with the Canucks, scoring at a similar pace. However, with Cooke's contract set to expire at the end of the 2007–08 season, he was sent to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Matt Pettinger at the trade deadline. The trade ended Cooke's tenure with the Canucks in his ninth season with the club. At the time of the trade, he was 12th all-time in games played as a Canuck with 556.[6]

Cooke with the Capitals, March 2008.

Finishing the 2007–08 season, Cooke would play 17 games with the Capitals, scoring 7 points. In the off-season, on July 5, 2008, Cooke signed a two-year, $2.4-million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.[7] He injured his ribs in his first season with the Penguins in October, missing four games, but was able to return by the end of the month.[8] On December 2, 2008, he was named to the rotating position of alternate captain for the Penguins for the month of December.[citation needed] The next month, Cooke was suspended for two games on January 27, 2009, for a headshot that he delivered to Carolina Hurricanes forward Scott Walker seven days earlier. He was assessed a minor penalty for interference on the play.[9] He earned a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009.

Cooke set a new career high during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs by scoring four postseason goals, two of those coming in the decisive Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place.[10] On June 22, 2010, Cooke signed a three-year contract to stay with the Pittsburgh Penguins, a deal worth $1.8 million per season.[11]


During his career Cooke has been criticized by the media, league and team executives and other players for his hitting in ways more likely to cause injury such as hits to the head.[12][13] In the 2008–09 season, Cooke was suspended on two different occasions. In November, he received a two game suspension for a check to the head of New York Rangers' Artem Anisimov. In January 2009, he received another two game suspension for a hit to the head of Scott Walker, at the time with the Carolina Hurricanes.[14]

On March 7, 2010, in a game against the Boston Bruins Cooke delivered a blow to the head of Boston's Marc Savard, causing a concussion and Savard to miss almost two months. Cooke said he was not intending to hurt Savard;[15] however, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli characterized the hit as "a very surgical hit to the head."[16] Fellow Penguin teammate Bill Guerin also analyzed Cooke's hit on Savard to Pittsburgh reporters.[16] "If a guy gets hurt like that with a shot to the head, there's got to be something," said Guerin, adding that he expected Cooke to be suspended. "I understand he (Cooke) is on my team but, hey, he's in a tough spot."[17] In a ruling, which has received wide criticism,[16][18] Cooke was not given a suspension for the hit on Savard.[19] NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman commented on a radio talk show regarding the Cooke hit on Savard. "I was very unhappy and upset with that hit," said Bettman. "I was more upset there was nothing (in the League rules) to do to punish it."[12] On March 24, 2010, the league implemented a new rule aimed at prohibiting hits to the head. In announcing the rule, Bettman said, "The elimination of these types of hits should significantly reduce the number of injuries, including concussions, without adversely affecting the level of physicality in the game."[13][20]

Rangers Ryan McDonagh is slow to get up after the elbow delivered by Cooke.

On February 9, 2011, Cooke was given a four-game suspension for a hit from behind on Columbus Blue Jackets' defenseman Fedor Tyutin.[21] On March 21, Cooke was suspended for the final ten games of the Penguins regular season schedule as well as the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs stemming from an elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.[22] The suspension was the longest of Cooke's career and was supported by the Pittsburgh Penguin management. Speaking to two Pittsburgh newspapers the day after, Cooke apologized for the hit. "I realize and understand, more so now than ever, that I need to change," Cooke said.[23]

Changing his game

With the suspension and then Pittsburgh's early elimination from the playoffs, Cooke had considerable amount of free time. He spent much of the time with Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma reviewing each of his hits to learn how to change his game to hit within the rules. Cooke said, "The way I played before was to get the biggest hit possible every time no matter what." and that now "Certain situations, I just approach differently. I try to get the puck more than I did before." Well into the 2011-12 season teammate Craig Adams said of Cooke's play, "I've noticed over the last month or so, he's been feeling more comfortable being physical again, obviously, within the rules. That was a big part of his game."[24] At season's end, he had scored a career high nineteen goals and posted only forty-four penalty minutes - his lowest total ever over a full NHL season.[25]

International play

Medal record
Competitor for  Canada
Ice hockey
World Championships
Gold2004 Czech Republic

Cooke made his first international appearance, playing for the Canadian national junior team at the 1998 World Junior Championships. He scored 2 points in 6 games, but could not help Canada win a medal, losing to Russia in the quarter-finals. He then competed for Team Canada at the 2004 World Championships. Named to the team with Vancouver Canucks teammate Brendan Morrison, Cooke helped Canada clinch gold, tallying 4 points in 9 games.


Cooke and his wife Michelle, whom he married in 2001, have 3 children;[26] a daughter named Reece Lynn Cooke and a son named Jackson Cooke. He is a devoted and dedicated father who, in his free time, is a baseball coach.[citation needed] Michelle has another daughter, Gabby, whom she had in a previous relationship. Cooke and Michelle run a foundation called The Cooke Family Foundation of Hope,[2] based out of Vancouver.


Matt Cooke, October 2011.

Career statistics

  Regular season Playoffs
1995–96Windsor SpitfiresOHL618111910271346
1996–97Windsor SpitfiresOHL654550951465551010
1997–98Windsor SpitfiresOHL2314193350
1997–98Kingston FrontenacsOHL25813214912881620
1998–99Vancouver CanucksNHL3002227
1998–99Syracuse CrunchAHL37151833119
1999–00Vancouver CanucksNHL51571239
1999–00Syracuse CrunchAHL18581327
2000–01Vancouver CanucksNHL811413279440004
2001–02Vancouver CanucksNHL8213203311163250
2002–03Vancouver CanucksNHL82152742821421312
2003–04Vancouver CanucksNHL5311122373731412
2005–06Vancouver CanucksNHL458101871
2006–07Vancouver CanucksNHL811020306410002
2007–08Vancouver CanucksNHL61791664
2007–08Washington CapitalsNHL173472770004
2008–09Pittsburgh PenguinsNHL761318311012416722
2009–10Pittsburgh PenguinsNHL791515301061342622
2010–11Pittsburgh PenguinsNHL67121830129
2011–12Pittsburgh PenguinsNHL8219193844604416
NHL totals8871451943391,0328213162994


YearTeamEvent GPGAPtsPIM
Junior int'l totals61126
Senior int'l totals92248


  1. ^ a b "NHL Entry Draft Year by Year Results". National Hockey League.
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ "Canucks lose Northwest, now face Blues". CBC Sports. 2003-04-06. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  4. ^ "Canucks sign Cooke to 3-year contract". USA Today. 2005-09-21. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  5. ^ "Calgary vs. Vancouver". USA Today. 2004-04-19. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  6. ^ "Canuck Career Leaders". Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  7. ^ Molinari, Dave (2008-07-05). "Penguins sign forward to replace Ruutu". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-07-05.
  8. ^ Kasen, Sam (2008-10-25). "Penguins Report: Cooke Returns". Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Sens' year ends as Dupuis caps comeback in OT to propel Pens into 2nd round". 2010-04-24.
  11. ^ "Penguins Sign Forward Matt Cooke To A Three-Year Contract". 2010-06-22.
  12. ^ a b Condor, Bob (March 25, 2010). "Bettman on rule's effect on play, injury prevention". National Hockey League. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  13. ^ a b "Rule prohibiting lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to head will take effect". National Hockey League. March 25, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  14. ^ "NHL decides not to punish Penguins' Matt Cooke". Sporting News. Mar.10, 2010. Retrieved Mar.14,2010.
  15. ^ Buckley, Steve (March 19, 2010). "Matt Cooke, Penguins laugh it off". Boston Herald. Retrieved Mar.19,2010.
  16. ^ a b c Gordon, Sean; Maki, Allan (Mar.12, 2010). "A black eye for hockey". Globe and Mail.
  17. ^ "Penguins’ Bill Guerin sides with Bruins". Boston Herald. March 11, 2010. Retrieved Mar.14, 2010.
  18. ^ Stubbs, Dave (Mar.13, 2010). "Bruins' anger simmering to a slow boil". Toronto: National Post. Retrieved Mar.14, 2010.
  19. ^ Harris, Stephen (Mar.14, 2010). "Colin Campbell’s act appalling". Boston Herald.
  20. ^ Farber, Michael, "The Public Enemy", Sports Illustrated, 14 March 2011, pp. 52-55.
  21. ^ "Pens' Cooke suspended again". Toronto Sun. Feb. 9, 2011url=
  23. ^ Associated Press (March 22, 2011). "Pens' Cooke says he needs to change way he plays". The Boston Globe. Retrieved Mar. 22, 2011.
  24. ^ JAMES MIRTLE (Jan. 31, 2012). "Less spice in Matt Cooke's new recipe". Toronto: Globe and Mail. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2012.
  25. ^ Hooks Orpik (May 31, 2012). "Season in Review: Matt Cooke". SB Nation. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
  26. ^

External links