“Fatso forgot to shake my hand.” Sean Avery
Those were the immortal words of one of the most mercurial figures in recent New York Rangers history.
Avery, the former Blueshirts forward quipped about Martin Brodeur in an article by Jeff Z. Klein of The New York Times, after the Rangers defeated the New Jersey Devils in the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs and Brodeur ignored him in the traditional handshake line.
But here's the reality: Fatso aside, Sean Avery simply cannot be ignored.
A polarizing figure, he was adored by the faithful fans at Madison Square Garden, who proudly chanted his name whenever his skates hit the ice. But he simultaneously fell out of favor with Rangers coach John Tortorella. Ultimately, this led to No. 16's undoing, as he was waived by the organization last December.
Avery announced his retirement from the National Hockey League last March in his own unique way: on the after-show segment of Bravo’s late-night talk show, “Watch What Happens Live” with Andy Cohen. The link to the segment of the show on which Avery appeared can be found here.
So now, the four-year, $15.5 million contract he originally signed with the Dallas Stars in July, 2008 is completely off the Broadway books. In 264 regular-season games as a Ranger, Avery tallied 45 goals and 78 assists.
He spent 601 minutes in the sin bin.
Plus, he delivered a healthy dose of intrinsic value to the team, as he irritated opponents from crease to crease in any way he possibly could. The NHL even amended a rule because of his one-of-a kind approach to driving the enemy up the wall.
But could he have done more to further his tenure on 7th Avenue?
When all was said and done, did he squander his talent?
I say no.
Avery loved the game and played it with a ton of tenacity during a career that spanned from 2001-2002 through last season. But ultimately, his many interests outside hockey took precedence over the the sport itself. This became apparent to Ranger fans four years ago, when he interned during the offseason at Vogue magazine. The seeds had been planted for a personal and professional evolution.
From there, fashion never went out of fashion for Avery. That point will be emphasized when you see his slick Soho loft.
Over the years, many of Avery's opponents—and some of his teammates—thought of him as a mad man. Now, he's become a genuine Mad Man, working in the advertising business at Lipman in New York City, the firm that hired him to be the face of Men's clothier Hickey Freeman.
Hockey just doesn't fit into Avery's schedule anymore. And to pardon the pun, it seems to suit him just fine. The personal and professional evolution is now complete.
Do you think Sean Avery did the right thing by retiring?
But even though he's left the game, Avery, forever the agitator, took one last parting shot, aimed squarely at the hated club across the Hudson.
According to a recent article by Joe DeLessio at NYMag.com:
He appeared on classic-rock station Q104.3, where he reiterated that he is indeed officially retired. Avery chatted about a handful of topics, including all bars and restaurants he's officially and unofficially involved with, but toward the end of the interview, the conversation turned to hockey and Avery's old pals, the New Jersey Devils, and last year's Eastern Conference Finals. Said Avery: "I can tell you one thing. The New York Rangers would have beaten the New Jersey Devils if Sean Avery was on the team."
Yes, that's just Avery being Avery—or at least the old Avery for just a moment or two. But there's more to it than that.
Even though the Rangers' organization has made way for younger, speedier and more talented wingers such as Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin, there are multitudes of fans across Blueshirts Nation who feel as though their favorite antagonist could still be a piece of the Cup puzzle. That is, if he really wanted to be.
You already know my thoughts on the subject.
What are yours?
Before you weigh in however, check out the Sean Avery bonus links:
Follow him here on Twitter.
His adventures have been chronicled in photos here by SI.com.
And even though the player won't be coming back anytime soon, Sean Avery the horse has made his triumphant return.