While a deal to end the NHL lockout seemed to be a lost cause to many on the outside, Matt Cooke says a group of the Pittsburgh Penguins had ratcheted up their workouts two weeks prior as they sensed a deal was nearing. Hopefully they’re not alone, as the 48-game season is just two days away.
Matt Cooke joined 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh with Joe Starkey to discuss his big season last year, how he reinvented his game at age 33, enjoying the game of hockey more, if the players of physically ready for the season to start so soon and playing with prolific offensive threats Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
You’re coming off a big season. In some ways it’s kind of like you reinvented yourself:
“Yeah, that’s the terminology that’s been used. I had a career high in goals and career low in penalty minutes. I just focused on different areas of the game. I think everybody that’s played in the NHL at one point or another was the guy to get goals or the guy to score goals or the most talented guy on their team. Eventually, as you wean out, there’s just not room for everybody to do that. Fortunately, I’ve had the support of everybody to do that.”
That’s somewhat odd for a player in his 30s. How did you do it?:
“I think you always try to get better. Technology now, these days, is so great that it allows you to prepare in a bigger fashion. Having the ability to watch video, not just of me but around the league, is a huge asset. That played a big part, but also just the commitment of buying into getting rid of the high-risk plays. … All those things were there, they were just overshadowed by the other stuff.”
Are you a different guy off the ice as well?:
“Yeah, there’s been lots of changes off the ice. The biggest thing is it’s both on the ice and off the ice, but I just enjoy the game a lot more. I’m not putting myself, mentally, in the spot to be that guy. … Even before and after games, it never really registered before that I’m enjoying [it].”
With the late-starting season due to the lockout, does your body feel ready for the season to start?:
“We’ve been fortunate to have, on average, 10 or 12 guys from the team, skating here four or five days a week and holding each other accountable and making sure we stay in shape. You plan to peak in late September, early October, for regular season, and you may lose some of that, but being so close to the situation … and knowing where things could go, we ramped it up pretty hard two weeks before we got a deal. I think most of us feel pretty good on the ice.”
How many goals do you think Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can put up in 48 games?:
“Sid already counted himself out of 100, and I think that’s not really realistic, but he already counted himself out of that. … They’re so talented and offensively gifted, but they’re so competitive, each in their own way. They drive each other to be better and it’s an unbelievable experience to be a part of, because legitimately every game, you’re going to see the highlight of the year twice, from different guys. It’s just fun to be a part of.”