Game Three between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers in last season's playoffs witnessed one of the most unusual tactics to distract a goalie. Sean Avery was the perpetrator. Shocking, I know.
During a five-on-three power play for the Rangers, Avery faced Brodeur, and waved his stick right in Marty's face in an attempt to distract him. It was an unclassy technique to say the least, and Avery would wind up scoring on the PP. Talk about a slap in the face.
The Devils would win the game 4-3 in overtime, but that didn't stop NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell from sending a message declaring that such tactics will be penalized from now on.
"An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play," Campbell said in a statement.
The Rangers won the series in five games, and Brodeur shook everyone's hand except for one player. You can guess who. I don't blame him either—because the guy's been a top goalie throughout his career, and has always been respectful to his opponents.
In Avery's defense, he is an agitator, and does what others won't do. This is what makes him so valuable. It's gonna take more than the ordinary to piss off one of the greatest goaltenders to ever play the game. Whether it did or not, remains to be seen. But Avery accomplished his goal—sending New Jersey home.
We saw the same in the previous year's playoffs, when the pest got Ilya Kovalchuk fired up. But, when your teammate (Chris Drury) tells you to stop waving your stick in the goalie's face, you cut that out. There's a certain amount of respect, and class that must be shown.
The misconduct penalty (Rule 75.4-Subsection 3) states the following:
"Any player or goaltender who, after warning by the referee, persists in any course of conduct (including threatening or abusive language or gestures or similar actions) designed to incite an opponent into incurring a penalty."
A ten-minute misconduct will now be assessed to any player that tries to recreate the Avery method. On Hockey night in Canada, they called it dishonourable—and they were dead on. Sean had the nerve to say Brodeur had no class after refusing to shake hands.
"Everyone talks about how much class I don't have," said Avery. "I guess he forgot to shake my hand." Avery added, "Of course, I was going to shake his hand."
New rules are being introduced now for two reasons—Sean and Avery. What's next for this guy? On one hand, Avery was just doing what he does best—getting the better players off their game. On the other, he crossed the line as far as the honour code goes among players.
The little pest is now a Dallas Star, but the new NHL schedule format ensures that every team sees the other 29 at least twice. I'm sure both of these guys are looking forward to it. Mark October 22 and December 31 on your calendars.
This wasn't the first run-in between the two. In the 2006-2007 season, Avery crashed the net during a match in the Prudential Center. Marty took exception, and shoved Avery—only to have Sean return the favour. Brodeur fell to the ice, and a huge scrum resulted.