Friday, March 01, 2013


Longevity and Its Merits

                                                 James Hurst and Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke

There is a lot to be said for longevity, especially in the sports world. Experience is a valuable asset.

In conversation the other night with former Wellington Duke Matt Cooke, he suggested that I check on the number of games he has played in the NHL, and compare it with the number played by another Stirling native, Robert Ray. Cookie thought that he needed one more game to surpass Robbie’s total.

                                                                      Rob Ray

This is what I gleaned from the ultimate hockey data site, “”. During the regular season, Ray played 900 games. He also played 55 playoff games. Matt Cooke has played 907 regular season games, and 82 playoff games. There is no doubt in my mind that Cookie is now “King of the Hill” in the village north of the Bay of Quinte. Mind you, Robbie amassed more than three times the number of penalty minutes! Neither of them has ever qualified for the Lady Byng Award.
                                                                   Matt Cooke (Getty Photo) 

The Penguins had fallen to the Florida Panthers in a game that always means something in this shortened season. Tomas Kopecny had jumped on a loose puck, and fired a strike to seal the deal into the empty net. It was his first career hat trick, and the Panthers were relieved with the result.

The Panthers, last year’s South East Conference Champions have struggled this season, primarily due to shaky goaltending and a weak power play. They scored their first four goals on the PP, chasing the Penguins’ Vokoun from the net. Enter Marc-Andre Fleury. However, Jose Theodore was equally inept in the Panthers net, and was replaced at the start of the third period by Scott Clemmensen.

I spoke briefly with former Belleville Bull Shawn Matthias in the Panthers’ dressing room after the game. Because of his strong play, the Penguins failed to amount a sufficient attack to win. Panthers led 4-1 at one point, but the Pens stormed back to tie the game. Strong defensive play, and steady work by Clemmensen kept the Penguins from stealing the victory. “We felt strong before the game,. We really had nothing to lose, so we went for it. We just went out and had fun. It’s not ideal. But it is what it is.”

                                                                   Shawn Matthias

He then added, “Go on over and hear what Kopecny has to say,” Matthias told me. I mentioned his strong play, swooping in and out of the Penguins zone to break up attacks. He shrugged and said that he works all summer on his skating. It has certainly made a difference in his game.

Naturally, Cooke was subdued after the loss, but took the time to chat. He looks forward to spending time on “The Bay” this summer. But he is also going to be heavily involved with his son’s baseball activities in Pittsburgh. “He plays for a team that travels to other states. He is not yet ten years old, but pitchers are already throwing in the mid sixties. He is a catcher, and one of his training drills is to receive pitchers, and blocking them, without a glove! He loves it!”

Penguins missed the work of Evgeni Malkin, who is on the injured list with a concussion. He was injured in a previous game against the Panthers by Eric Gudbranson, and fell heavily into the end zone boards. Some hockey observers expected repercussions would take place during the game. Such was not the case. The injury was quite accidental, to my eyes.

The Penguins spent a couple of days in Florida, then headed off to Montreal. Panthers entertained the Sabres last Thursday, and lost in the shootout.

For both teams, that pretty well wraps up half the season.

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