Kaleta to appeal suspension, Cooke offers to help him change
Wednesday was a busy one in the world of Patrick Kaleta.
First, word broke the Sabres’ agitator would appeal his 10-game suspension for a headshot on Columbus’ Jack Johnson. That news was then followed by an ESPN report claiming Matt Cooke -- former public enemy No. 1 when it came to player safety -- had reached out and offered assistance in reforming Kaleta’s style of play.
Yeah. Lots to digest here.
First, the appeal. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kaleta has decided to proceed after conferring with his agent and the NHLPA. According to the CBA, the first appeal will be heard by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman -- should Bettman uphold the ruling, there is a clause allowing for a second appeal, one that would go through a neutral arbitrator.
Kaleta could be challenging the merit of his “repeat offender” status. He wasn’t penalized for the hit on Johnson and Johnson wasn’t hurt on the play, suggesting the 10 game suspension was based past transgressions -- of which there have been many.
The catch, though, is CBA language on a possible 18-month statue of limitations for repeat offenders.
Within the last 18 months, Kaleta has only been suspended once, a five-gamer for boarding Rangers forward Brad Richards in March of 2013.
Kaleta’s previous suspensions (four games for headbutting, two games for boarding) happened more than 18 months ago. It’s worth mentioning that another notorious repeat offender -- San Jose’s Raffi Torres -- had a successful appeal of his 25-game suspension in 2012, getting it knocked down to 21 games.
Now, onto the second part of this story -- the one where Cooke decided to intervene.
Cooke and the Wild played Buffalo on Monday and, as Jason Pominville caught up with his ex-teammate, Cooke introduced himself to Kaleta and said he’d be willing to talk about reforming his game.
“I laid it out there that if he wants to know what I did, I’d gladly talk to him about it,” Cooke told ESPN. “He knows Pommer, so I told him ‘If you want to get hold of me, I’m there to talk.’”
Cooke has been a different player since a series of transgressions led to a 17-game suspension (10 regular season, seven postseason) in 2010-11. He says hours of video research and learning how to re-think the game have made him a safer player.
“There’s a huge difference in the way I approach the game now. The days of just going for the big hit, every time possible, is just not feasible,” Cooke said. “The way the game is played now, the speed of the game, and the way the kids are taught to play the game.”