Say what you want about Sean Avery, but the guy can play the game of hockey.
In 417 career games, the current Ranger forward has tallied 187 points. That averages out to about 37 points every 82 games (a full NHL regular season).
He's considered by nearly all NHL players and fans as a "pest" and is known for his big mouth and ridiculous antics on the ice. Still, all that acting out that gets the majority of fans upset actually has little to no significance to the game itself.
Let's check out some controversial statements Avery has made in his career:
In 2005, when he was with the Los Angeles Kings, Avery made a comment defending former teammate Jermey Roenick, who suffered a concussion in a preseason game after a cheap hit by then-Phoenix Coyote defenseman Denis Gauthier.
After the contest in which the hit occurred, Avery stated that he thought "it was typical of most French guys in our league, with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not back anything up".
Apparently, the comments caused a major outcry from the French-Canadian public. Hey, as far as I know, in America, people have the right to say what they want as long as it doesn't violate the rights of others.
And for further illustration, here's another:
Earlier this season, while with the Dallas Stars, Avery stated that "it's become a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about, but enjoy the game tonight".
He said this before a game against the Calgary Flames because Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf was involved with actress Elisha Cuthbert, Avery's ex-girlfriend.
The incident became a hot topic for sports talk shows around the country, even those that rarely commented on NHL happenings. League higher-ups suspended Avery as a result of his words, as they determined that such statements reflect poorly on the association in general.
They must not have ever heard the phrase "There's no such thing as bad press."
In all seriousness, Avery's "sloppy-seconds" comment was the most the NHL has been broadcast on ESPN all season. Without it, the majority of America probably would be uncertain as to whether or not professional hockey is still played in the U.S.
I mean, right now, the typical American can't even find NHL contests on their television, as 90 percent of the nationally televised games are on what was formerly known as "Outdoor Life Network."
The Stars organization later was quoted as saying that they would have suspended Avery if the NHL hadn't issued a ban first. So it seems this "conduct detrimental to the league or the game of hockey" was going to get the man out of hockey "indefinitely" either way.
Come on, indefinitely? It's like the NHL is telling players it's okay to slash another man on the face, but not okay to make a rude comment about an ex-girlfriend?
Really? Is that what the NHL's standards are? Please, what guy out there hasn't said something about an ex-girlfriend that he regrets?
So what if Avery isn't the nicest guy in the world?
The popular Canadian hockey commentator Don Cherry was quoted as saying that he "has known this kid [Avery] since he was about 16 years old...once a jerk, always a jerk"
I'm sorry, Mr. Cherry but is there a two-minute minor for being a "jerk?"
Though Avery may not be the best guy in the locker room and isn't all "buddy-buddy" with the whole team, the fact is that he plays his tail off as an agitator to help his team win. His job is to get under people's skin, and throughout his career he has proved that he is damn good at it.
In my mind, it's absolutely appalling that the NHL and the general public overreacts to comments off the ice while there's nothing done about about the pathetic cheap-shot artist that is the Anaheim Ducks' Corey Perry.
This is where the "slashing to the face" comment made above comes into play.
In Sunday night's Ducks-Sharks game, San Jose defenseman Marc Edouard Vlasic was knocked down to the ice with the clock ticking down. Before he could get back on his skates, he was viciously slashed in the side of the face by the winger Perry.
No penalty was called on the play, but the transgression led to a full-out brawl as time expired at the end of the game. Oh yeah, it was Perry who initiated the fight, and he did it as time was expiring.
He faked losing his balance over a teammate's skates and then purposely fell into Sharks goaltender Brian Boucher. In response, Boucher tried to wrestle Perry out of the net in order to attempt a last-second save.
Then, as numerous other fights started to break out, Perry got up and both stomped on the leg and punched the helmet of Boucher before Joe Thornton and another Shark were able to come to their goalie's aid.
Now combine these two transgressions, which occurred in the same game, with Perry's late and deliberate slashing of the Sharks top goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, in the back of the leg earlier this season, plus the obvious unnecessary contact that Perry initiated with Stars goaltender Marty Turco (seen in this article's photo).
Aren't you at least a bit surprised that, at this point in time, Perry has not been penalized, fined, or suspended for any of these transgressions? It's a testament to how poorly the officiating is run in the NHL.
Ever since the lockout, the NHL has been cracking down on the ticky-tack hooking and holding penalties, but they have failed to make the important calls on hits from behind, elbows, and slashes like those seen at the end of Sunday night's Sharks-Ducks contest.
It is an absolute joke that the NHL suspends players for comments made off the ice about ex-girlfriends yet allows players to take cheap shots on opposing players without punishment.
"Sloppy seconds" is "detrimental" to the league, but actions taken in a game that could cause serious injury aren't worthy of any sort of reprimand?
Casual sports fans in America aren't turned away from the game because of insignificant pregame comments. They are turned away from the game because of the immense amount of preventable violence.
Parents don't want to see their kids getting hurt and don't want them to watch brawls like the one that Sharks and Ducks had not 24 hours ago. Who would want their children thinking that fighting is an OK way to solve a conflict? Fighting is going to happen in hockey but the NHL needs to avoid full-scale brawls with better officiating.
The fact is that the brawl at the end of the game could have been prevented if the referees had just made the right call. There is absolutely no way the officials didn't see what happened during that play; it was right by the puck, so we can place the blame with confidence.
Now, I'm not one to fault the referees every time they make a questionable hooking call against my team. Refs are human, too, and therefore make mistakes; besides, officiating typically evens out over 60 minutes of play.
But I am sick and tired of NHL referees deciding not to call penalties that are right in front of them and are completely objective. I'll fault them for not cleaning up something dirty.
If the NHL wants to put their best product out there and make sure the general public sees hockey at its best, then they need to focus on putting an end to the actions that are actually harmful to hockey.
Just leave Sean Avery and his rude comments alone. Last time I checked, there is no penalty for being rude, but there is one for slashing.
Why would a guy face a ban for being a little colorful, but not for acting maliciously on the ice?
I do not know, I guess you'll just have to ask NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about that one.