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Cooke, son share sweet scene

Rob Rossi, in his fourth season covering the Penguins, shares some of the scenes unique to a traveling beat reporter.

If the NHL collective bargaining agreement allowed for it, the Penguins would be wise to sign Jackson Cooke to a letter of intent. The little guy has the look of a future NHL regular.

Of course, it helps that Cooke has a great teacher in dear old (by Penguins standards, anyway) dad – Matt Cooke.

The elder Cooke owns a reputation as a fierce competitor, a player willing to toe (and sometimes cross) the line for the benefit of his team. He isn’t loved in 29 NHL cities, but the Penguins appreciate him so much that last summer general manager Ray Shero made Cooke one of the rare players in his 30s to receive a multi-year contract.

Cooke will be 34 when his current three-year deal expires, and he might call it a career at that point. The next phase of his life is probably as a hockey dad, and he’s already prepping for it.

A familiar sight at Consol Energy Center before practices is Cooke and son on the ice, dad observing carefully as son works on the basics. For about 30 minutes Cooke schools his boy on the art of making and receiving passes, points out spots on the ice where forwards should go to score goals, and urges him to dig harder while bending his knees during the skating stride.

This is the side of Cooke his detractors — those who consider him one of the NHL’s dirtiest players — might not believe, perhaps a side they could not fathom.

Cooke’s critics should know the only job at which he’s better at than stirring the pot and killing penalties is parenting.

A few months into his first season with the Penguins, Cooke showed the side of himself that to that point was seldom seen by local media. Walking from a Starbucks to Joe Louis Arena before a game in November 2008, he discussed the difference between public education in Canada and the United States, reasoning that he needed to educate himself more on the pros and cons of potential schools for his children before deciding whether his family should move to Pittsburgh.

After signing his contract in late June, he shared that they would finally make that move. Surely that move will help Jackson Cooke grow into a fine NHL prospect.

He can count on dad seeing to that little by little every day.


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