While it's late coming out of the oven, it's hot, fresh and full of steaming controversy. It's...
HOT HOCKEY OPINION #3
Much has been written/spoken/acted out by street mimes of late regarding Sean Avery, his inappropriate remark, the six-game suspension handed down by the NHL for said remark, and his subsequent dismissal from the Dallas Stars. As a fan of the Stars (since '93) and the Rangers (since '80), the thought of Avery playing for a team other than those two pains me a great deal. In my opinion, both Dallas and New York were wrong to let him go. Allow me to explain:
I didn't really take notice of Sean Avery until he landed on Broadway. I quickly became a fan of his hard-hitting, abrasive style of play. The pinnacle of Avery's achievement in New York came in the playoffs last season, when he caused the NHL to change a rule on the fly and got so far into Martin Brodeur's head that Brodeur refused to shake Avery's hand at the conclusion of the series. To me, Brodeur's reaction was evidence of Avery's (evil?)genius, his (dark?)artistry, his thorough understanding of the mental aspect of the game. Then came the offseason and free agency. The day the Rangers signed Aaron Voros, I knew that Avery would be playing off-Broadway in 08/09. I immediately called my brother and told him that I hoped the Stars would sign Sean Avery, because if he went anywhere else, I'd have to start hating him; he's just that kind of player.
Avery's career in Dallas came to an untimely end after just 23 games. I freely admit that Sean should've saved the "sloppy seconds" line for the ice, and his decision to pull the pin on that grenade in front of the press, in front of cameras, and just moments after he told Stars' Head Coach Dave Tippett that he was NOT going to talk to the press was exceedingly unwise. A six-game team (not NHL) suspension would've been a fair amount of time for Avery to sit in the corner and think about what he'd done. The league's decision to step in and suspend Avery for six games was particularly egregious, considering other punishments handed down of late. To summarize:
1. Head shot which concusses the victim, taking him off the ice for weeks or months: 1-3 games.
2. "Third man in" sucker-punch to the head of a helpless victim, followed by a punch to the groin (assuming the perpetrator's name is Sidney Crosby): Two minutes in the box. Nothing to see here; move along...
3. Utter the phrase, "sloppy seconds," on TV: 6 games.
A shiny, new U.S. nickel to the first person who can 'splain that to me in a way that makes sense (without using the phrase, "paradigm shift"). But I digress...
Apparently, the Stars' decision to hang the "No Avery's Allowed" sign above the locker room door was made because of the sum total of Sean's effect on the team, with the comment in Calgary being the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Avery's teammates in Dallas didn't like him before he signed with the Stars, and he (supposedly) didn't make an effort to fit in with his new club. Allegedly, Sean Avery is a very self-centered, selfish, "me first" individual. Perhaps that's true; I don't know him personally, so I can't speak to his character. All I really know about Avery is what I've seen with my own eyes, which is what he's done on the ice. During his brief tenure in Dallas, Sean was the best player on a shallow, injury-riddled team. He hustled every shift, and was more than willing to do the necessary dirty work for the Stars - not what you'd expect from a self-centered, selfish, "me first" individual. If off the ice he was to the Dallas Stars as Scott Farkus was to Ralphie and his friends in A Christmas Story, well...there are ways to deal with Scott Farkus types - just ask Ralphie (skip ahead to the 6:42 mark):
Sometimes, a guy just needs a healthy dose of "tough love" to motivate him to be a good team player OFF the ice.
Some have disparaged Avery's style of play, claiming that he won't drop the gloves with bigger players, preferring to pick on players smaller in stature than himself. To that, I offer the following: Sean Avery is 5'10", 195 lbs. He has three fighting majors this season, against Chris Kunitz (6'0",193), Andrew Ference (5'11",189) and Dan Hamhuis (6'1",200) (were Sean here to defend himself, I think he would add, "...So suck it."). No, Avery generally doesn't go toe-to-toe with the Bolls, Godards, or Parroses of the league, but that's because his goal is not to fight for fighting's sake, but to get the Crosbys, Ovechkins and Phaneufs of the league mad enough to drop their gloves...and go sit in the box for five minutes. After the Western Conference Finals last season, I'm sure Stars management reached the conclusion that they couldn't skate with Detroit when the Red Wings were on their game, so they brought in someone who could take the Wings off their game.
Avery is a first-class agitator, the best in (or out of) the NHL. And with a little personal growth, a little maturity, he should be welcome on any team in the league. Until he catches on with another NHL club, though, Sean Avery is welcome on my Beer League team. But if he gets out of line in the locker room, we'll beat his a...
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