1. 4.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Originally Posted 16 DEC 2008 at www.ongoalanalysis.com

Stated more accurately, Sean likes second chances. Or is it third and fourth chances?

The Dallas Stars have decided Sean Avery will not be rejoining the club on the ice as the Stars seek to improve their team play and avoid their continued downward spiral.

Obviously, the Stars have made the right decision considering it was well-documented coach Dave Tippett and many of the organization’s marquee players had vocally expressed their position; Avery was not welcome in the locker room.

One player, however, is not the reason for the Stars lackluster play this season but all factors contribute. Nobody can deny having such an immature soul amongst their ranks helped erode morale and did not facilitate the club to focus on what needs to be done to surmount mounting injuries, poor defensive play (early on) and goofy antics in net where normally a regaled veteran, Marty Turco consistently stood his ground. To be fair, it appears Turco has turned the corner. We still have to wait and see if high tide has yet ebbed…

For the Frozen Pill, two things stood out amongst all other matters discussed endlessly over the previous weeks.

First, the ‘negative’ press for the sport of hockey this incident generated and its subsequent surfacing of the hockey-bashers. Secondly, the ‘free speech’ issue.

NHL hockey is the fastest growing sport in professional team sports in America right now. However, whether it’s stick-swinging Todd Bertuzzi or Sean Avery, it seems it takes downright nastiness in order for hockey to grab some headlines in the major media. Okay, really no surprise here.

Our ‘news’ services love them some blood, some bad news, some controversy, etc. We know this, we expect this and we get this. But boy-howdy, do the gripers come out of the woodwork whenever hockey is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Avery makes a stupid comment (to generate self-publicity) and all of a sudden, the talkers are debating fighting in hockey again. Huh?

Folks are surprised the league and the other players are offended by ‘mere words’ when so much other nastiness happens on the ice during the games. And they are not referring to the chirping, but the basics of the sport – checking, hitting, fighting, etc.

To you haters out there, I offer this advice – Relax. It will be okay. If you are truly adverse to any level of ‘violence’ in a sport, you have your football, basketball and baseball. However, I always wonder how the majority of sports fans conclude hard-hitting tackles, headshots and nut-grabbing-in-the-scrums of football to be less violent than hockey.

But if you simply just don’t like hockey I would suggest, first, you actually sit down and watch a few games in their entirety (pretend it’s a movie: complete with three acts, a plot, fine character development, and both tragedy and comedy!) You may be surprised how much you enjoy the game…and we hockey fans would be happy to welcome you into the fold.

But please don’t feel you must offer your commentary if you are not at least watching the occasional game or have some clue as to the very gentlemanly rules of conduct governing all that mean and nasty checking and fighting you see on the ice. You see, in our sport, two men face off with known intentions, drop gloves and work it out. Then, they sit in a penalty box, think about what they have done and miss 5 minutes of playing time. It’s called sacrifice and it has its purpose. You will also notice it looks nothing like the group hugs of slappy-slap-slaps you see when the benches clear on the court or on the diamond and everybody bum-rushes to get into the…action?

So while your mouth hangs in aghast at the dastardly comments of Sean Avery, be sure to notice two other things: It speaks volumes of any organization (i.e. the NHL and the Dallas Stars) that they loathe such press (no press is bad press, right?). These organizations and the fans want the sport of hockey to be appreciated for the game itself and see no reason for the league to morph into a spectacle as opposed to a spectator sport. Also, notice how the NHL suspends, not glorifies or passively condones players who say or act in such a way to disparage the business, the team and the sport.

Which brings me to the second item to discuss – the free speech issue.

Fortunately, most analysts discussing this incident got the ‘free speech’ issue correctly assessed. However, it seemed quite a few struggled with this aspect and many analysts felt obliged to offer the conciliatory, ‘I believe Avery has a right to free speech, but…”

So the Frozen Pill is here to help all of us feel less confused about this angle. Yes, we have the right to speak our minds in America. In America…

Sean Avery was in Calgary when he made his comments, was he not? That’s Canada, folks. Our constitution, while widely respected and mimicked, is not the governing document of Canada.

I was surprised how many people calling into various talk shows or various writers brought up the fact Sean Avery has the right to free speech and were condemning the actions of the NHL in suspending him for speaking freely. Yet I imagine these same people would not exercise their right to free speech and step into their boss’s office and share their true feelings with him or her. Why not? Free speech, and all, right?

They don’t share because of the potential ramifications of telling one’s boss what one thinks of him or her…perhaps even with colorful language…because of a little thing called consequences. In particular, I believe the term is insubordination. Yes, it’s an offense meriting a firing in most organizations. So, most folks refrain.

Avery was in the visitor’s locker room when he sought out the cameras to make his prepared, inflammatory comments. He was there because the team he played with (his job) had just finished practice on Calgary Flames’ property (the workplace). He was on company time, folks and in the process of doing what one must do in this profession to earn their paycheck. On the clock, schlock, breaking the rules of conduct and representation. Even Donald Trump knows how to say, ‘you’re fired.’

It’s really not a complicated issue.

Too many people today cite free speech as a defense for being idiotic after turning off their internal editor and engaging in verbal diarrhea. So, regardless of whether Avery made his comments while on or off ‘the clock’ his right to free speech has been and would be protected.

Let me explain.

This ‘free speech’ thing comes from the United States Constitution. In particular, the first Amendment to said governing document, contained within the Bill of Rights. And here is what is protected (in case you ARE considering that visit to your boss’s office):

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Much was written and said about the Sean Avery sloppy seconds comment, but much of the debate over whether he had the ‘right’ to say what he did was, well, sloppy. Besides, we don’t need laws to guide us on our speech…that’s what Political Correctness is for, right?

What I did NOT read or hear was Congress debating a law forbidding Sean from speaking his dirty, little mind. Had this been the case (and Congress found time between lecturing the auto industry and saving the planet from cow farts), we would have had an actual free speech issue. And if such a law were written and passed, it sure would give new meaning to the Avery Rule, eh?

1 comment:

Big Tony said...

It is great that Dallas got rid of Avery. But you better believe if the Stars were at the top rather than bottom of the West Avery would only have been suspended and not asked not to return.
Spot-on with your comment about people saying hockey is too violent and yet they have no problem watching football, boxing, mma, etc. And yes, before people knock hockey they should perhaps watch a game or two first, seriously.
Lastly, the analysis of free speech is basically right. Avery was not disciplined by government and that is all the Constitution promises will not happen as a result of something you say. However, being in Calgary when he said it doesn't matter because Canada has a similar free speech guarantee.