Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. — Leviticus 24:20
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. — Matthew 5:39
For Saturday’s warm-ups, the Phoenix Coyotes’ Massachusetts-born defenceman Keith Yandle sported a MARTIN RICHARD No. 8 jersey in honour of the eight-year-old Bruins fan who lost his life in the Boston Marathon bombing attacks.
On Wednesday, Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek came up with the idea of the Sabres and Bruins — a pair of teams’ whose on-ice disdain for one another is palpable — saluting the TD Garden fans together, regardless of outcome.
And on Monday night, when the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators face-off for the first time since Penguins winger Matt Cooke’s skate sliced the Achilles of Sens defenceman Erik Karlsson on Feb. 13, another display of hockey character will be revealed — one way or the other.
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. — Samuel 16:7
That the Senators can clinch the unlikeliest of playoff spots Monday (with a victory plus a Winnipeg Jets regulation loss to the Buffalo Sabres) has become a secondary story line to the “will they or won’t they?” suspicion that a Sens player will try to make Cooke pay for his seemingly unintentional but nonetheless reckless actions against the defending Norris Trophy champ more than two months ago.
Watch the Ottawa Senators face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet East.
Ottawa tough guy Matt Kassian told the Ottawa Sun Saturday that several Sens fans, through Twitter, have encouraged him to exact retribution on Cooke, and on Monday WANTED posters drafted by the most ardent members of the Sens supporter group, the Red Scarf Union, made the rounds.
“He has a history,” Kassian told the Sun. “To use a Bible quote, ‘A man doesn’t know what a man knows, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ I’m pretty sure between Matt Cooke and Jesus they are the only ones who know what was going through his head.
“I would like to think it wasn’t (intentional). I’d like to assume good things about people. It was unfortunate. He is a player who plays on the edge. For him to be successful he has to play on the edge.”
With the Penguins’ place as Eastern Conference regular-season champs secure, the Sun speculated on the weekend that Cooke might not even dress for Monday’s game; on Monday, Sportsnet’s Ian Mendes, however, has Cooke slotted on the third line.
The divisive forward was recently nominated by Pittsburgh’s hockey writers as the Pens’ candidate for the 2013 Bill Masterton Award, which recognizes perseverance and dedication to hockey. The nomination did not sit well with all, and Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is still out to prove that Cooke’s intention on that mid-February night were evil.
Yet Cooke, who participated in his team’s optional skate Monday in Ottawa, faced the local press and will reportedly be facing a Hate Fest during the game.
“I approach it the way I do any other game. What happened between me and Erik is a complete freak accident,” Cooke told reporters Monday. “I feel bad. I’m glad he’s close to recovering and coming back.”
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he was surprised how much attention the potential for fisticuffs is getting, yet the team is looking to plug 6’5″ , 271-pound plug Steve MacIntyre into his first NHL contest this season.
Karlsson, who was cleared for contact Friday but has yet to return to NHL action since the horrific injury, will not play. Kassian will be a game-time decision.
Were there no doubt that Cooke sliced Karlsson on purpose, then there would be no doubt Monday would present an eye-for-an-eye and not a turn-the-other-cheek situation. Such can be the hockey way.
Ignorant to what’s in Cooke’s heart, there is, however, great reason to believe the cut was a tragic fluke accident. And maybe there too is reason to believe the Senators won’t give in to pressure from an unforgiving segment of their fan base, or seek payback for their stubborn owner.
Maybe the Pesky Sens will treat Monday as nothing more than a chance to play hard and get into the playoffs. Maybe they’ll factor in Karlsson’s remarkable recovery and their own odds-bucking performance in the last two months and see the greater picture here.
For such is also the hockey way.
(Cooke poster image: Michael Burns of the Red Scarf Union)