Matt Cooke, at age 34, was introduced today to the local media and is the “oldest skating player, anyway,” he joked. Goalie Niklas Backstrom, at age 35, is older. Nickname is “Cookie” and “Cookie Monster,” and he says in Vancouver, some fans would actually come to games and sit there the whole time in Cookie Monster costumes.
Here's some greatest hits from his press scrum today and a couple one-on-one interviews he and I had:
On his trademark missing upper and lower teeth: “I have a flipper, and it’s probably the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever had in my life. And I feel like it’s not me. So I don’t ever wear it. I can put it in for press conferences, but that’s not who I am. I’m not this made-up person that isn’t real.”
How’d he lose his teeth? Ironically, Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown, who was suspended for his head shot on Wild forward Jason Pominville late last season and once concussed Wild forward Antti Miettinen: “I got hit by Dustin Brown while I was in Vancouver. Knocked me out and I hit my face on the ice. That’s how I lost it and never really had it fixed.”
On the blessing he got from Derek Boogaard’s parents, Joanne and Len, to wear their son’s Wild number (24): “Both of them responded with overwhelming support of me putting the number on. If there was any hesitation or doubt from the family at all, there was no way I’d put the number on. … One of the things I expressed to the family is that by me putting on this number is by no means any disrespect to him or his family or what he accomplished and did here in Minnesota, and if anything, hopefully I can support and honor him by putting his number on.”
On being a marked man: “A lot of times I just get two minutes for being Matt Cooke. My wife joked, ‘maybe you should actually change your number so you confuse the referees and they don’t see 24 and automatically give you a penalty.”
On his new teammates: “I just met Josh [Harding]. I do have some friends on the team. I played world championships in 04 with Dany [Heatley] and we became really close over there. I played with Mike Rupp in Pittsburgh, and our families are really tight.”
Do you have to mend any fences with anyone? “It’s funny. The first text I got was from Zach [Parise], and before I said anything, I told him, ‘Once I see you in person, I’ll apologize for any past run-ins’ because when we were in New Jersey, we had a few. He texted me back, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ve had a lot worse.’ It’s always an awkward time. You’ve always had battles, but that’s the nature of the game and in the sport of the game. If there wasn’t that, the game wouldn’t be as exciting and amazing a game as it is. I think that’s a credit to guys in this league that they might dislike playing against you, but once you’re on the other side, it’s a totally different ballgame.”
On his style: “I’ve played a lot of playoff games (97). I’ve got a lot of experience (935 regular-season games). I’ve excelled at the penalty kill over the last couple years. I pride myself on there not being any easy ice out there. I want to bring a physical element, get in on the forecheck and hopefully create space for guys, too. … I think I can come in and hopefully stabilize the third line, the checking line. I can go out and play against a top line night in and night out. Hopefully I can be a calming influence in the room.”
What’s your personality like: “I’m sarcastic and a prankster. And not just with teammates. Trust me, I already have something planned for the media on the first day of media day, but I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag.”
Why he signed with Minnesota over what he says were five or six teams: “I’m a guy that needs to win. I’m a team-first type of guy and I don’t think I would do so well in a situation that maybe isn’t primed to win and win often. I feel like this team is. I feel like this team is right on the cusp of doing some great things and hopefully I can come in and help that. Obviously my relationship with Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher from previously in Pittsburgh helped solidify that situation.”
Has he gotten tired of trying to defend his reputation: “No. … I knew that I could play the rest of my career without being suspended and there’s still going to be naysayers, and that’s fine. I’m not going to change their opinion, and I understand that. I respect that they have opinions and I’m not going to dodge anything that happened in the past, and I know who I am today and how I play the game.”
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