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One of the best things about sports is that each team has a rival or a villain who they just cannot stand to play against. Whether it’s somebody who managed to always find a way to beat you or someone who just rubs you the wrong way there is always one team you want to beat just because you want to stick it to that player.
If you ask Minnesota Wild fans who the player they loved to hate the most in the NHL was, one of the most popular answers is Matt Cooke. So you can imagine how they felt this summer when the fans learned that Cooke had signed a three year deal to play in the state of hockey.
After hearing about the signing I had the chance to read some message boards to get fan reaction to the Wild signing Matt Cooke. Let’s just say they were less than pleased with the decision. I can’t say I was surprised by that. When you have cheered against someone for so long you aren’t going to accept them on your team right away.
Still I wondered how long would it take for Wild fans to cheer Matt Cooke. Turns out it only took 1:04 into the first period as that is when Cooke scored the first goal of the season for the Wild, deflecting a shot off his skate from Kyle Brodziak, giving Minnesota a 1-0 lead over Los Angeles.
Cooke said after the game he didn’t want to focus on the past as he wears a green uniform now and that playing for the Minnesota Wild is what’s most important going forward. However his teammates are happy to have him on their side instead of having to play against him.
“Cooke and I are going to try to go out there to try and play a certain way and be hard to play against” said Wild forward Kyle Brodziak who is paired on the 3rd line with him and Mikael Granlund. “We are going to try and get in guys faces and hopefully complement each other pretty well.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo also had praise for Cooke in his debut: “He did a great job on the penalty kill tonight and scoring that first goal. That’s what we are hoping for out of him. He also made a lot of great little plays in our zone and along the wall that add up during the course of the game.”
I know Minnesota Wild fans tend to think of Matt Cooke as a dirty hockey player. That will change as the season goes on. As they watch Cooke on the ice they will appreciate him for what he brings to the team. Cooke is a good two way forward who can kill penalties and give Minnesota quality minutes on the ice as a 3rd line winger. That is something the Wild will need this season if they are to return to the playoffs. If Cooke continues to play well this season as he did in the opener the fans in Minnesota that have hated him in the past will grow to love him.