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Cherry applauds stiff Cooke suspension, but says it should have happened sooner

TORONTO - Don Cherry says the NHL got it right this time.

The colourful "Hockey Night In Canada" personality applauded the league for its stiff suspension of Pittsburgh agitator Matt Cooke on Saturday's "Coach's Corner" broadcast on CBC.

Cooke was suspended for the rest of the regular season, which worked out to 10 games, plus the first round of the playoffs for elbowing Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers in the head in a game last Sunday afternoon.

"It's almost like a drunk, (he) has to have something done to him to straighten him out," Cherry said of Cooke. "I believe this kid will straighten out."

Cherry was far more measured in tone Saturday than he was in a "Coach's Corner" segment that aired just over a year ago, when he called Cooke "gutless" and "backstabbing" after his hit to the head of Marc Savard left the Bruins centre with a severe concussion. Cooke was not suspended for that hit, a decision that infuriated Cherry.

"It's too bad he wasn't straightened out on the Savard (hit), which he should have got 20 games," Cherry said Saturday. "It might have saved a lot of guys injuries."

Cherry also lauded McDonagh, a rookie, for showing respect to Cooke by saying the Penguins forward didn't mean to hit him in the head.

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