Matt Cooke’s Biggest Monday Confrontation

Early in Monday’s game, Ottawa Senators tough guy Chris Neil attempted to challenge Pittsburgh Penguins agitator Matt Cooke to a fight to avenge Erik Karlsson‘s seemingly accidental (or was it?) injury, but Cooke declined.

Perhaps it was because Cooke had his fill of confrontations after a strange exchange with Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun.

Here’s how that uncomfortable conversation played out, at least according to Brennan’s column:

Cooke must have read the Ottawa Sun on his way to the rink because something in it clearly had him rattled. And I’m still not sure which part.

After listening to Cooke answer questions about the Feb. 13 incident in which his skate sliced 70% of the way through Erik Karlsson’s Achilles tendon, I went to speak with other players in the room about different matters. Like every other reporter there. On the way out, I found Cooke waiting to have a word in private with me.

He wanted to tell me I have no balls. At first I think he said “small balls.” But by the time he had finished, and knew Penguins GM Ray Shero was listening, he had decided I had none. Oh, and I believe he also mumbled something about me having no penis before disappearing into the players-only room, which I found interesting.

Well, OK.

Later in the piece, Brennan uses the following line to slam Cooke for his perceived unwillingness to “answer the bell.”

Maybe he should grow a set of his own before worrying about mine.

The natural question is: did an urge to get revenge distract a Senators team that had a lot more on the line than the Penguins, who beat Ottawa 3-1? Senators players told NHL.com that wasn’t the case.

“I don’t think we were too preoccupied,” Kyle Turris said. “Everyone knew what was going on beforehand and we just had to go out and play our game. We didn’t do that.”

Regardless, it’s easy to tell that the Senators believed that the 34-year-old pest disregarded “the code.”

“Media and fans ask us about it every day,” Zack Smith said. “There’s not much you can do. [Cooke] is not going to go out there and be accountable for what he did. So we tried to put that behind us as best we could.”

After the game, Cooke expressed relief in finally getting the game “out of the way.” It doesn’t seem like the Senators are totally satisfied, however.

Related: Mike Milbury calls Cooke a “skunk.”

For more on this story visit: James O’Brien, NBC Sports Pro Hockey Talk

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