Matt Cooke

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Matt Cooke
Cooke with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010
Born (1978-09-07) September 7, 1978 (age 45)
Belleville, Ontario, Canada
Height 5 ft 11 in (180 cm)
Weight 208 lb (94 kg; 14 st 12 lb)
Position Left wing
Played for Vancouver Canucks
Washington Capitals
Pittsburgh Penguins
Minnesota Wild
Current ECHL coach Newfoundland Growlers
National team  Canada
NHL Draft 144th overall, 1997
Vancouver Canucks[1]
Playing career 1998–2015

Matthew David Cooke (born September 7, 1978) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player who played sixteen seasons and 1046 games in the National Hockey League (NHL). Cooke won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2008–09 NHL season and was a member of the Team Canada team that won the gold medal at the 2004 World Championships. In addition to having previously played for the Penguins, he has also played in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild. Cooke was born in Belleville, Ontario, but grew up in Stirling, Ontario. He is currently the head coach of the Newfoundland Growlers.

Cooke's playing style earned him the reputation as one of the NHL's "pests".[2][3] During his NHL career, Cooke was criticized and often suspended for hits, some involving head-shots, or knee-on-knee collisions that have injured opposing players. Most notable was a hit to the head of Marc Savard, which was an important factor influencing NHL rule changes intended to deter such conduct. After his longest suspension in 2011 for a hit to the head of Ryan McDonagh, Cooke pledged to change his style of play, although he had another lengthy suspension in the 2014 playoffs for a knee-on-knee hit delivered to Tyson Barrie of the Colorado Avalanche.

Playing career

As a youth, Cooke played in the 1992 Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament with the Quinte minor ice hockey team from Belleville, Ontario.[4]

Cooke played junior ice hockey in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for three seasons, predominantly with the Windsor Spitfires, prior to playing professionally. Recording an impressive 95-point (tenth 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 the Kingston Frontenacs on December 17, 1997, in exchange for Brent L'Heureux. Cooke would finish the season and his OHL career with Kingston.[citation needed]

Vancouver Canucks

Matt Cooke in 2006
Cooke with the Vancouver Canucks in 2007.

Splitting the 1998–99 and 1999–2000 seasons between the Canucks and their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, Cooke would play for the Canucks full-time in 2000–01.[citation needed]

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.[5] 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 Näslund and Brendan Morrison on the Canucks' top line for the final 13 games of the season and the playoffs.[6]

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 Näslund rush and dramatically tied the score with five seconds remaining in regulation; it was also Cooke's second goal of the game. As the Canucks were short-handed at the time, however, Calgary began the overtime period on the powerplay and clinched the series.[7]

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. 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.[8]

Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins

Cooke with the Capitals, March 2008.

Finishing the 2007–08 season, Cooke would play 17 games with the Capitals, scoring seven points. In the off-season, on July 5, 2008, Cooke signed a two-year, $2.4-million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] He earned the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009.

Cooke with the Penguins

Cooke set a new career high during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs by scoring four post-season goals, two of those coming in the decisive Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place.[12] On June 22, 2010, Cooke signed a three-year contract to stay with the Penguins, a deal worth $1.8 million per season.[13]

Minnesota Wild

Following his contract expiry with the Pittsburgh Penguins, on July 5, 2013, Cooke signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract with the Minnesota Wild. It marked Cooke's return to the Western Conference after leaving the Vancouver Canucks during the 2007–08 season. Playing in all 82 games in the 2013-14 NHL Season, Cooke scored 10 goals along with 18 assists for 28 points in his first season with the Wild.[citation needed]

With Minnesota up against the Salary cap and suffering an injury plagued 2014–15 season, having appeared in just 29 regular season games, Cooke was placed on waivers in order to buy-out the final year of his three-year contract with the Wild on June 19, 2015.[14]

Criticism and Suspensions

During his career, Cooke has been criticized by the media, league, fans, and team executives, and other players for his hitting in ways more likely to cause injury such as hits to the head or hits to an opponent's knee.[15][16] Of note, CBC host and former head coach Don Cherry has been consistently and effectively critical of Cooke, personally, and has faulted the NHL for not responding appropriately to Cooke's intents to render opposing players unable to play over the years.[17]

In the 2008–09 season, with the Penguins, Cooke was suspended on two different occasions. In November, he received a two-game suspension for a check to the head of the New York Rangers' Artem Anisimov. In January 2009, he received another two-game suspension for a hit to the head of Scott Walker of the Carolina Hurricanes.[18]

On March 7, 2010, in a game against the Boston Bruins, Cooke delivered a blow to the head of Boston's Marc Savard, concussing Savard and forcing him to miss almost two months. Cooke said he was not intending to hurt Savard;[19] Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli, however, characterized the hit as "a very surgical hit to the head."[20] Fellow Penguin teammate Bill Guerin also analyzed Cooke's hit on Savard to Pittsburgh reporters.[20] "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."[21] In a ruling, which has received wide criticism,[20][22] Cooke was not given a suspension for the hit on Savard.[23] On March 24, in response to the outcry over Cooke not being suspended, the league implemented a new rule aimed at prohibiting blindside hits to the head like the one Cooke delivered to Savard. In announcing the rule, NHL Commissioner Gary 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."[16][24] Earlier, Bettman appeared on Leafs Lunch on Mojo 640 in Toronto to discuss 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."[15]

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' defenceman Fedor Tyutin.[25] 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 defenceman Ryan McDonagh. The suspension was the longest of Cooke's career and was supported by the Penguins. Penguins General Manager Ray Shero said in a statement that the hit was "exactly the kind of hit we're trying to get out of the game," and that Penguins officials had told Cooke "in no uncertain terms" that such play was "unacceptable."[26] Speaking to two Pittsburgh newspapers the day after the incident, Cooke apologized for the hit. "I realize and understand, more so now than ever, that I need to change," Cooke said.[27]

Changing his game

With the suspension and then Pittsburgh's early elimination from the playoffs, Cooke had a 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 in "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."[28] At season's end, he had scored a career-high 19 goals and posted only 44 penalty minutes, his lowest career total in a full NHL season.[29]

In February 2013, Cooke was involved in an incident with the Ottawa Senators in which Erik Karlsson's achilles tendon was cut by Cooke's skate as the two made contact along the boards. While Senators owner Eugene Melnyk was outraged by the incident, stating, "To have him (Karlsson) taken out by a goon is unconscionable," league officials determined there would be no supplemental discipline for Cooke.[30][31][32]

On April 21, 2014, during Game 3 of the first round of the 2014 playoffs against the Colorado Avalanche, Cooke, playing for the Minnesota Wild, delivered a knee-on-knee check to Avalanche defenceman Tyson Barrie. Barrie did not return to the game and it was announced that he would miss four-to-six weeks as a result of the Cooke check. After an in-person hearing with the Department of Player Safety, Cooke was suspended for seven games for his conduct. As per the stipulations governing suspensions during the playoffs, Cooke did not suffer any loss of income.[33]

Coaching career

On October 7, 2023, Cooke was hired as the head coach of the Newfoundland Growlers in the ECHL.[34]

International play

Medal record
Representing  Canada
Ice hockey
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 2004 Czech Republic

Cooke made his first international appearance, playing for the Canadian national junior team at the 1998 World Junior Championships. He scored two points in six games, but could not help Canada win a medal, as Canada lost to Russia in the quarter-finals, then to the US and Kazakhstan, finishing eighth overall behind Kazakhstan. 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 four points in nine games.

Personal life

Cooke and his wife Michelle, whom he married in 2001, have three children; a daughter, a son, and a stepdaughter.[35] Cooke and Michelle ran a foundation called The Cooke Family Foundation of Hope,[36] based out of Vancouver. It was dissolved in 2016.


Career statistics

Regular season and playoffs

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1994–95 Wellington Dukes MetJHL 46 9 23 32 62
1995–96 Windsor Spitfires OHL 61 8 11 19 102 7 1 3 4 6
1996–97 Windsor Spitfires OHL 65 45 50 95 146 5 5 5 10 10
1997–98 Windsor Spitfires OHL 23 14 19 33 50
1997–98 Kingston Frontenacs OHL 25 8 13 21 49 12 8 8 16 20
1998–99 Vancouver Canucks NHL 30 0 2 2 27
1998–99 Syracuse Crunch AHL 37 15 18 33 119
1999–2000 Vancouver Canucks NHL 51 5 7 12 39
1999–2000 Syracuse Crunch AHL 18 5 8 13 27
2000–01 Vancouver Canucks NHL 81 14 13 27 94 4 0 0 0 4
2001–02 Vancouver Canucks NHL 82 13 20 33 111 6 3 2 5 0
2002–03 Vancouver Canucks NHL 82 15 27 42 82 14 2 1 3 12
2003–04 Vancouver Canucks NHL 53 11 12 23 73 7 3 1 4 12
2005–06 Vancouver Canucks NHL 45 8 10 18 71
2006–07 Vancouver Canucks NHL 81 10 20 30 64 1 0 0 0 2
2007–08 Vancouver Canucks NHL 61 7 9 16 64
2007–08 Washington Capitals NHL 17 3 4 7 27 7 0 0 0 4
2008–09 Pittsburgh Penguins NHL 76 13 18 31 101 24 1 6 7 22
2009–10 Pittsburgh Penguins NHL 79 15 15 30 106 13 4 2 6 22
2010–11 Pittsburgh Penguins NHL 67 12 18 30 129
2011–12 Pittsburgh Penguins NHL 82 19 19 38 44 6 0 4 4 16
2012–13 Pittsburgh Penguins NHL 48 8 13 21 36 15 0 4 4 35
2013–14 Minnesota Wild NHL 82 10 18 28 54 6 0 3 3 8
2014–15 Minnesota Wild NHL 29 4 6 10 13 7 0 2 2 4
NHL totals 1,046 167 231 398 1,135 110 13 25 38 141


Year Team Event Result   GP G A Pts PIM
1998 Canada WJC 8th 6 1 1 2 6
2004 Canada WC 1st place, gold medalist(s) 9 2 2 4 8
Junior totals 6 1 1 2 6
Senior totals 9 2 2 4 8


  1. ^ a b "NHL Entry Draft Year by Year Results". National Hockey League.
  2. ^ Graff, Chad (November 7, 2013). "Minnesota Wild: Matt Cooke has changed his game, but he's still a pest". St. Paul Pioneer Press. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  3. ^ Colligan, Mike (March 21, 2011). "Matt Cooke Suspended 14-17 Games; the End of the 'NHL Pest'?". Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  4. ^ "Pee-Wee players who have reached NHL or WHA" (PDF). Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament. 2018. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  5. ^ "Canucks lose Northwest, now face Blues". CBC Sports. April 6, 2003. Retrieved May 30, 2008.
  6. ^ "Canucks sign Cooke to 3-year contract". USA Today. September 21, 2005. Retrieved May 30, 2008.
  7. ^ "Calgary vs. Vancouver". USA Today. April 19, 2004. Retrieved May 30, 2008.
  8. ^ "Canuck Career Leaders". Retrieved May 30, 2008.
  9. ^ Molinari, Dave (July 5, 2008). "Penguins sign forward to replace Ruutu". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on July 6, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2008.
  10. ^ Kasen, Sam (October 25, 2008). "Penguins Report: Cooke Returns". Archived from the original on October 27, 2008. Retrieved October 25, 2008.
  11. ^ "Cooke suspended for illegal check". Pittsburgh Penguins. January 27, 2009. Archived from the original on January 31, 2009. Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  12. ^ "Sens' year ends as Dupuis caps comeback in OT to propel Pens into 2nd round". April 24, 2010.
  13. ^ "Penguins Sign Forward Matt Cooke To A Three-Year Contract". June 22, 2010.
  14. ^ "Wild puts Cooke on waivers; Dubnyk Talks". Minnesota Star Tribune. June 19, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  15. ^ a b Condor, Bob (March 25, 2010). "Bettman on rule's effect on play, injury prevention". National Hockey League. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "Colin Campbell Critical Of Marc Savard After Matt Cooke Hit In 2010". March 30, 2016.
  18. ^ "NHL decides not to punish Penguins' Matt Cooke". Sporting News. March 10, 2010. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  19. ^ Buckley, Steve (March 19, 2010). "Matt Cooke, Penguins laugh it off". Boston Herald. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  20. ^ a b c Gordon, Sean; Maki, Allan (March 12, 2010). "A black eye for hockey". Globe and Mail.
  21. ^ "Penguins' Bill Guerin sides with Bruins". Boston Herald. March 11, 2010. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  22. ^ Stubbs, Dave (March 13, 2010). "Bruins' anger simmering to a slow boil". National Post. Toronto. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  23. ^ Harris, Stephen (March 14, 2010). "Colin Campbell's act appalling". Boston Herald.
  24. ^ Farber, Michael, "The Public Enemy", Sports Illustrated, 14 March 2011, pp. 52-55.
  25. ^ "Pens' Cooke suspended again". Toronto Sun. February 9, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
  27. ^ "Pens' Cooke says he needs to change way he plays". The Boston Globe. Associated Press. March 22, 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
  28. ^ JAMES MIRTLE (January 31, 2012). "Less spice in Matt Cooke's new recipe". Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  29. ^ Hooks Orpik (May 31, 2012). "Season in Review: Matt Cooke". SB Nation. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
  30. ^ Cox, Damien (February 13, 2013). "Matt Cooke won't be suspended for hit on Erik Karlsson". Toronto Star. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  31. ^ "Erik Karlsson needs Achilles surgery". ESPN. February 14, 2013. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  32. ^ "Sens' Melnyk outraged, says Cooke doesn't belong in NHL". The Sports Network. February 14, 2013. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  33. ^ "Wild's Cooke suspended seven games for kneeing". NHL. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  34. ^ "Growlers name Matt Cooke Head Coach, Adam Pardy Development Coach". Newfoundland Growlers. Retrieved October 7, 2023.
  35. ^ Marx, Jesse (October 2, 2013). "Matt Cooke: The soul of an agitator". Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  36. ^ "The Cooke Family Foundation of Hope". Archived from the original on August 4, 2009.

External links