The Minnesota Wild's Matt Cooke has been suspended seven games by the NHL for his knee-on-knee hit against Colorado's Tyson Barrie. Barrie is out four-to-six weeks after blowing his MCL on the play, a major loss for the Central Division's top seed, and that injury plus Cooke's lengthy, infamous suspension history factored into the decision.
Here is the NHL's explanation:
This is Cooke's sixth career suspension, but it's his first since 2011, when he was banned for 17 games after delivering an elbow to the head of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Cooke has made a concerted effort to clean up his game since that 2011 hit, and he was essentially faced with a change-or-get-out scenario in the aftermath of that one.
He wasn't suspended for his 2010 hit on Bruins forward Marc Savard, mostly because the NHL's rulebook didn't call for discipline at the time. Following that hit, however, Savard never fully recovered and ultimately left hockey for good. The league went on to change its rules, implementing Rule 48, which makes illegal any hit where the head is the principal point of contact.
Cooke has always been a physical player. While he's a better hockey player than your average NHL goon, he's always relied on taking the body, and with that comes the inevitability of stepping over the line. It was pretty shocking he that went so long without being called to the principal's office again, even if he has been good in recent years.
Cooke is under contract with the Wild until the summer of 2016.