A friend of mine (not a Rangers fan) argues that—love him or hate him—Sean Avery is good for hockey in many ways. I’m not always sure, myself… but he certainly does does know how to draw a spotlight.
To a point — they’re right. “Bad boys” are a part of the league, and part of what makes the league interesting. Think about some of them in the NHL’s past:
How about Essa Tikkanen? who do you remember first? Tikkanen? Or Dino Ciccarelli? Chances are, Tikkanen comes to mind first, and he and Ciccarelli were very similar players, but very different personalities…
Claude Lemieux? Theo Fleury? How about Chris Pronger? For as good a defenseman as he is today, isn’t his prime attraction for most fans the ability to boo him? The wondering if he’s going to lose his temper (again) and if he oes, how long he’ll be suspended? Part of his attraction is that he DOES lose it, and always has.
Isn’t that “bad boy” image part of the attraction of the fighters in the league? Bob Probert, for instance.
If you think about it, some of the most famous people in the WWE are the bad boys.
The trick is to play near that line, but not step over. Sharks fans loved to hate Fleury when he came to town. Dallas fans don’t think quite so fondly of Bryan Marchment. Detroit fans (and Chris Draper) don’t send Claude Lemieux christmas cards, I bet.
But the funny thing is, I’m having trouble thinking of a guy who crossed that line on a “league wide” way in the NHL. It’s fairly easy in other sports (Michael Vick, anyone?) but in hockey, it’s tough to think of someone who simply went that sideways — and stayed in the league.
Avery’s definitely had control problems; I think Dean Lombardi did a wonderful job of reigning him in without screwing him up — and then selling him off after he was rehabilitated but before he went sideways again. If you realize that at one point, Avery was kicked off the team and banished, and most of us felt he was through and was going to be given away, that’s a stunning rehabilitation and credit goes to both Lombardi and Avery. But if you watch Avery since he’s gone to the Rangers, you also see that self-control wavering again, and I wonder if he’ll one of these days blow it big-time.
that, frankly, is one of the reasons we pay attention to him; since I’ve been talking about Gaetz the last couple of days, I think it’s the same kind of attraction. Avery is, in his way, a lot like Gaetz: we watch him not just because he’s a decent hockey player and a physical punisher, but because — if we’re honest — we’re wondering if this is the day he loses it, and what’ll happen if he does. And that edge is part of what makes his game effective, but it’s also that edge that makes him an interesting player in the game for fans, and not just another third liner with an edge.