This isn’t so much an essay on Avery and the suspension as some random thoughts and reactions. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about check out Puck Stops here; it’s one of the more reasoned views of the situation:
I support the idea of trash talk. I think it is a useful way for players to agitate opponents. Avery said something that would likely upset one of the best players on the Calgary Flames (Dion Phaneuf) who he was about to play and he managed to do it by saying something that was clean enough for national TV. That is an accomplishment. He had to hit Phaneuf with something personal to do this. It seemed to me like a rather minor incident. It was something that might be played in the broadcast of the Dallas at Calgary game that night and soon be forgotten (it is possible some larger incident may come during the game which would keep it in the news – but most likely it would be soon forgotten).
The NHL had other plans. They suspended Avery for his comments. A large number of fans applauded – many on the logic that they hat Sean Avery and suspending him for any reason is a good thing. The problem is this reason for his suspension is a weak one. It’s not the worst off ice thing that Avery has done. He has given a camera man in New York the middle finger and had off-color verbal comments about Darcy Tucker and Jason Blake.
Avery was suspended because he is Sean Avery. Had another player been in his position, there would likely have been no suspension. The league is looking to suspend Sean Avery. If this becomes a precedent for further suspensions for pre-game trash talk, that will lead to more suspensions for relatively minor offences. If there are no further suspensions for pre-game comments, then it shows that Avery is being unfairly treated as he is being punished when others in the same situation would not be.
My view on this situation is frankly mixed; Avery definitely stepped over a line and needed to be bitchslapped, especially after it came out that he was told by his team explicitly told him not to speak to the press, and Avery ignored that order and stepped into someone else’s scrum and effectively cherrybombed the press and then ran. That the Stars have come out and said they would have suspended him is a good sign. I personally would have preferred that it be a team suspension to a league one, by having the League step in I think they’re opening up a Pandora’s box they may regret.
On the other hand, that’s classic Avery: agitate until the other side loses its cool and reacts without thinking it through. In some ways, he just did that to the league instead of an opposition player. The league will have to deal with the side effects later. At the Sharks game last night, Laurie and I were talking about this, and I said “I really wish I was on the call between Bettman, Daly and Colin Campbell where Bettman asked them to find a rule that allowed him to kick Avery in the balls” — and basically, that’s what the league did.
I have no sympathy for Avery here. He asked for it. He deserves it. Whether this was the best way to handle it, we’ll see.
For those wondering why he was suspended for this comment, you can’t take this in isolation. It’s not THIS comment, it’s that this is just the LATEST of a string of increasingly out of control comments. And that’s the real issue here:
Avery is out of control. Anyone remember Ray Emery? Well, here’s this year’s model. Except Avery decided, among other things, to directly attack the league and league management as part of his “me first, I’m smarter than all of you” game.
There are some folks upset that the league didn’t allow Avery to play last night and give Phaneuf and the Flames a chance to, well, educate him as to the intelligence of his comments. I sympathize with them. In reality, though, imagine the scenario where Avery declines and turtles (not that Avery ever turtles. nope. not him) and others get involved. the NHL’s worst nightmare here would be someone like Mike Modano out with a torn ACL because the Flames tried to rearrange Avery’s face in a game. No, their worst nightmare would be another Steve Moore episode, and that’s not reaching very far given the heated tempers here, folks. So I don’t for a second blame the league for stepping in, this powderkeg had “disaster” written on it in a number of different ways.
By the way, people should really sit back and ask themselves Who Is the Victim? Another question people should ask themselves is where are the limits set?
Elisha Cuthbert got dragged through the mud here. What about her and her feelings? Shouldn’t the league have some standards here? Shift the scenario a bit: imagine that Sean Avery had said equally derogative things about, oh, Mike Grier. you really think people would be upset about a suspension over a racial slur? (well, some would, but they’d be a lot quieter and circumspect). So why would a racial slur be unacceptable, but a gender slur is? Draw a line in the sand, where do you put it? Blacks? European players? Quebec French? But not women? the league has made it clear, and suspended players, for slurs against the first three, on and off ice.
The guys out there who think it’s amusing that he did this to her, well, stop and think about it a bit. If you can. Or ask someone like Donald Brashear or Mike Grier. I bet that they have an opinion — and a fair bit of sympathy for her.
By the way, if Avery’d done this on ice, during a game, or privately in a hallway, that’s fine. Dirty play and dirty language is part of the game and his schtick, and that’s between him and the players. But jump into a scrum of reporters, grab a mike and put on a show? Hey, at that point, you are a representative of yourself, your team, and the league, and you have responsibilities to all of them to act professionally. Instead, he stood up and played the fool and proved that what was important was him.
And that’s why he’s poison; he threw his team under the bus, he threw the league under the bus, and it’s not the first time he’s done both. And for a game which prides itself on winning and competing as teams, it’s one thing to be an individual (this league is rife with them), but another to start declaring yourself more important than either. It’s been clear from his statements for a while that Avery sees the WWE as the model for how the NHL ought to operate. I think the league needs to suggest to Avery he go join the WWE; where it’s not really about winning, but about individuals and celebrity.
Oh, and speaking of people Avery’s thrown under the bus, how will you all feel when Brett Hull gets fired over this? Because I think there’s a strong chance that’ll happen: Hull championed him onto the team, Hull backed him and supported him. And now this. But then, everyone else is just support staff there to make life better for Avery. Hull’s probably learned a nasty lesson in learning in who he places his trust and loyalty with. Some friend, that Sean Avery.
According to the old cliche, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” There is definitely some truth to this statement. A player makes some public mistake and the media covers every detail of that team and league. It might not be the best publicity, but there is no question that your teams will get a lot of additional media exposure.
There’s good publicity, there’s no publicity, and there’s bad publicity. But not all bad publicity is created equal. Some bad publicity can be used for future benefit. Some is simply destructive. All the Avery thing has done is give people who love to bash the league more stuff to bash the league with. You tell me: how do you take the publicity caused by Avery and use it to convince non-fans the league is something they might want to check out? Banner ads on the WWE websites?
No, sometimes no publicity is much better for you than this kind of publicity. There’s nothing here that you can spin or leverage to get people to become interested in the league. It makes the league look like a bunch of jerks. Avery is doing nobody favors here, not even himself.
I’ll close with what Brett Hull said, because it’s both indicative of what hockey tries to be (and mostly is), and just how unimportant those aspects of the game were to Avery. Ultimately, that’s Avery’s key failure here: in a game where individuals give themselves to the success of the team, Avery merely saw the team and all around him as tools for personal self-gain.
“This goes beyond hockey and beyond the game on the ice, and that’s what bothers me,” Hull said. “We have talked and talked and talked about being on the edge within the game, but not going over the line. We told him from the start that he can not do things that would embarrass the organization. Ever since the start here, this organization has been built on class, and there is a responsibility to the organization, to the owner and his family, and to the city and the fans to maintain that class. Play hard, push the game on the ice, but do not embarrass the organization.”
And yesterday, the league finally told him they were tired of being a tool. And of him.
One wonders if he’ll actually listen. I doubt it. I wonder if he CAN.
Oh, and let’s put this all in perspective. How? Well, perhaps by reading this piece by goaliegirl…..