I worked in hockey for six years, seeing another side of the guys so many cheer for, idolize, and have their kids take pictures with.
Trust me, parents: you don't want to know, but you can probably imagine what the real lives of professional athletes are like. It's everything you would imagine with single hockey players...just more beer-soaked and sex-charged.
So when I hear that such a well-liked young man as Sean Avery made some public comments that many think were fired at a famous ex, it doesn't really shock me. Apparently, the NHL thought differently.
Avery—a member of the Dallas Stars—had finished with the morning pre-game skate as the team prepared for their Tuesday night tilt with the Calgary Flames. Then, he unloaded these comments to the media that was waiting to get some quotes for their stories, blogs, and columns:
"I'm really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada," started Avery before smirking. "I just wanted to comment on how it's become like 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."
'Sloppy seconds' apparently was referring to Elisha Cuthbert, the little blonde bombshell actress of 24 and The Girl Next Door fame. You could say that Cuthbert is the Alyssa Milano of hockey as she has been romantically-linked with several skaters, including Avery, Montreal's Mike Komisarek, and Dion Phaneuf who plays for...you guessed it...Calgary!
Avery's diatribe was also likely directed at LA Kings center Jarret Stoll, who is dating model and former Rod Stewart wife Rachel Hunter—a former girlfriend of Avery's. Fans may hate Avery, but the chicks sure dig him! Maybe it's his taste in purses and fashion, discussed in this much-talked about ESPN piece that ran this summer.
A tasteless remark? I'd say so, but not as bad as many national media members are attempting to make it. Keep in mind: these guys are hockey players, and while Avery has been known as quite outrageous and a lightning rod for hatred, at least he provides some spice to a league that still needs flavor.
Believe me, he isn't the only guy thinking this stuff, but probably the only guy publicly saying it. It doesn't make it right, but it is what it is.
Remember Avery's stick-waving goaltender antics in last year's playoffs or calling the Flames' Jarome Iginla boring? He's annoying, but so is Terrell Owens. Every sport needs an antagonist and Avery is definitely the NHL's. Never underestimate the value of having a good villain...it makes for great ink and sound bites. Just look at how much play this is getting.
Well, the league suspended Avery indefinitely Tuesday for the comments, citing "inappropriate public comments, not pertaining to the game," a decision Stars owner Tom Hicks supports. More like, "We wanted to avoid a public slaying on the ice." I think it's likely residue left over from critical comments Avery made about NHL Commish Gary Bettman and his overall standing as being 'the bad boy' of the league.
Let's face it: he didn't swear or do anything that was really outlandish other than be tasteless. I'm not an Avery fan, but this is a knee-jerk reaction for something Avery has the right to do: speak his mind. You hear worse on the drive-time morning show on the radio. Don't pretend this is offensive.
Perhaps the best medicine was for Avery to get his comeuppance and face the pain in person, in Calgary. Maybe that would send a message more so than a suspension that will soon be forgotten. Does this mean there's a conduct policy that all players must adhere to, restricting certain types of language? Exactly what grounds does the NHL have in taking such action? If the team itself had a specific code of conduct they wanted to cite in suspending him, I have no issue with that.
What I do have a problem with is Bettman's reasoning for the suspension. In other words, players must talk about "the game" at all times. They continue to suppress more personality than encourage, which is mind-boggling. I guess that MLB Commish Bud Selig can suspend Alex Rodriguez for his tryst with Madonna or that NBA head honcho David Stern could suspend Shaquille O'Neal for his rap against Kobe Bryant this summer.
It's easier to throw gas on a roaring fire than trying to understand what started the fire to begin with. The NHL kowtowed and suspended a guy for being a jerk, plain and simple. This won't be the last you hear from Sean Avery, but he might have to speak through NHL-sponsored duct tape the next time he does.
Josh Nason—firstname.lastname@example.org—is the publisher and main writer of Small White Ball, an all-encompassing sports blog that began in 2007. You can also read on mixed martial arts, boxing and pro wrestling at brother site RopesRingandCage.com. If you're using any part of this post, please link back to www.smallwhiteball.com. Thank you!