One of the worst, or best, things one can do to a goaltender to get them off their game is to mess with their minds. That is the reason fans sometimes chant an opposing goalie's name, or the word "sieve", especially during playoff games.
Screening a goaltender is nothing new. Hockey players at every level in every country have been doing it for decades. On the power play, in particular, a player is often assigned the job of screening the goalie.
Usually it involves placing a player or a number of players in front of the goalie. If the goalie cannot see the puck, or even the shooter, it is very difficult to tell where the puck is going, or even if it has been shot.
Some netminders are so good that the only ways to score on them is to screen the shot.
Former New York Rangers' left wing Sean Avery took this old tactic to a new level.
During a first-round playoff game against the New Jersey Devils, Avery waved his hands and stick in front of Devils’ goaltender, Martin Brodeur in an attempt to distract him and block his view.
On April 13, 2008, during the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils, on a five-on-three power play, when his team had the two-man advantage, Avery parked himself right in front of Devils' Brodeur.
Avery had been skating all around Brodeur, in the Devils' goalies' crease. They had words too. Avery was already well-known for his zingers.
With two members of the Devils in the penalty box, for half a minute or so, which is a long time in a hockey game, Avery blocked Brodeur’s view by waving his arms and stick in front of his face and mimicing Brodeur's every move.
Avery, the much maligned but talented forward, actually turned his back to the play and, facing Brodeur, waved his stick repeatedly right in Brodeur's face to distract him.
The play-by-play announcer said he had never seen anything quite like it. Brodeur risked getting a penalty by shoving his glove in Avery's face.
A teammate bumped into Avery to get him to stop, but he didn’t stop until the puck slid to the opposite end. Avery raced to the other end of the rink, got the puck, came back, and scored on Brodeur.
New York won the game. Brodeur complained to the media afterward. Although what Avery did was not illegal, many NHL commentators and players described Avery's actions as unsportsmanlike.
After the game, the league scrambled to amend the rules of unsportsmanlike conduct.
The next morning, the NHL issued a new rule to cover the situation.
It is known as "The Sean Avery Rule." The rule makes it illegal for a player to stand in front of a goalie and wave his or her stick in the netminder's face. The NHL announced that henceforth such behavior would result in a two-minute penalty.
Everyone calls it the Avery Rule.
I couldn't stop laughing when I saw Avery's antics on YouTube.com.
There are a lot of Avery videos on YouTube.com, by the way. As well as the incident leading to "The Avery Rule", you can see Avery versus Brodeur, Avery versus Kovalchuk, Avery versus Ed Jovanovski, Avery mouthing off to Sidney Crosby, the night Jaromir Jagr almost killed Avery, Rick DiPietro slapping Avery, Avery versus Ryan Malone, and Hardichuk beats on Sean "The Turtle" Avery, to name a few.
In the middle of the 2008 NHL Playoffs, the league made up a new rule.
During the next practice, WNBC-TV cameras caught Avery re-enacting what he did to Brodeur. When Avery noticed the cameramen, he shot his middle finger in their direction.
After the Rangers eliminated the Devils in that play-off series, winning four games to one, Brodeur snubbed Avery in the handshake line. He refused to shake his hand.
The Rangers took on Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the next round of the playoffs.
After the final game against Pittsburgh, Avery was taken to the hospital with a lacerated spleen. Some news reports indicated that he nearly died from internal bleeding. He was released from the St. Vincent's Medical Center a few days later. He missed the remainder of the season.
The Avery Rule made him immortal, in an odd way, and then he almost died playing against the Penguins.