Matt Cooke will don a Wild sweater for the first time during a media gathering Wednesday.
The number? Twenty-four.
Cooke, signed by the Wild on Friday, has worn No. 24 his entire career — the same number once worn by the late Derek Boogaard, the former Wild enforcer. Out of respect, Cooke reached out to Boogaard’s parents, Joanne and Len, to make certain they felt comfortable if Cooke wore the number.
Former Wild winger Martin Havlat wore 24 after Boogaard in Minnesota, but no Wild player has since Boogaard died May 13, 2011. Cooke wanted to first get the blessing of Boogaard’s parents.
“I want to let them know that by putting it on I’m absolutely not doing anything disrespectful,” Cooke said Monday. “I don’t want anyone’s feelings hurt.”
Len Boogaard forwarded Cooke’s e-mail to Derek’s siblings, Krysten, Aaron and Ryan.
“I’m very impressed with Matt for what he did by reaching out to my parents,” Ryan Boogaard wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. “He didn’t have to do it as he could have just worn No. 24, but he thought of Derek and our family before doing so. I knew that someone would eventually wear No. 24, and I was not expecting them to reach out to us, so when Matt did, I could not have been happier.”
Cooke, 34, is known for his long list of questionable hits, but he says he has done his best to clean up his act. The stats seem to support this.
Cooke has been suspended six times for a total of 25 regular-season games and seven playoff games. He has been fined four times for the maximum $2,500 each time. But he hasn’t been suspended or fined since a 17-game suspension in March 2011 for his head shot on the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh.
Last season, he had 36 penalty minutes, tied for 118th in the NHL. In 2011-12, he was tied for 216th in the NHL with 44 penalty minutes. He has played every game the past two seasons. Other than one 10-minute misconduct, he hasn’t had anything but a minor penalty the past two seasons.
Cooke said he is “committed to the process that I’ve started and ensuring I’m not suspended moving forward.”
The Wild hit the ice for development camp Tuesday, but the week also includes fitness training, leadership training, media training and nutrition training.
“In my time we thought eating a McChicken at McDonald’s was healthy. It was white meat,” said retired winger Andrew Brunette, the Wild’s hockey operations adviser who grabbed a whistle to instruct Tuesday. “Things have changed a lot.”
Dumba shoots for NHL
One Wild player intent on making the team next season is 2012 first-round draft pick Matt Dumba, 18. The hard-hitting, hard-shooting defenseman got a taste of the NHL in January when the Wild opted to keep him on the roster the first eight days of the season so he could be a sponge.
“That’s my objective, to play in the National Hockey League this fall,” Dumba said. “I really want to earn myself a spot on this team.”