Avery Rocks MSG's 150th SRO With Gordie Howe Hat Trick In Historic Rangers Win

Martin AverySenior Writer IMarch 17, 2009

Sean Avery was the first star of the Game of the Week on NBC with a Gordie Howe Hat Trick the day Madison Square Garden celebrated its 150th consecutive sell-out. The New York Rangers celebrated a big win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

MSG has seen a lot of rock concerts as well as hockey games in that time and Rangers fans treated Avery like a rock star as his celebrity status has spilled over from hockey into high fashion and Hollywood movies. Avery was a celebrity intern at Vogue after incurring The Avery Rule in the playoffs last season and now there is a movie in the works based on a column he wrote about his experience for Men's Vogue.

Avery appeared in the movie called Rocket Richard, playing the role of famous New York Ranger Bob "Killer" Dill while he was with the L.A. Kings. Avery became a fan favourite as an agitator in New York after leading the league in penalties for two years in L.A. As the song says, he was a star in New York and a star in L.A. He was also famous for dating movie stars and Sports Illustrated swimsuit models in L.A. and N.Y.C.

The Rangers victory capped the team's turnaround, Avery's return, and the day John Tortorella tied the NHL record for most wins by an American coach in the NHL.

The Rangers have been called the longest running hit series on Broadway and there were lots of hits in the game as the Rangers renewed their storied rivalry with the Flyers, which has often been violent and sometimes bloody.

The string of SRO games dates back over three years. Coincidentally, that covers the time Sean Avery joined the Rangers in a trade with the L.A. Kings. He was a fan favourite as an agitator in New York after leading the league in penalties in L.A.

Avery rejoined the team just in time to be the first star of the game on the day of the Garden celebrated its 150th sold right out hockey game. NBC recorded all the action, giving Avery the superstar treatment, following his every move with their star cam. NBC used an isolated camera on Avery that could be viewed throughout the game on the network's Web site.

He got a Gordie Howe hat trick, an unofficial dime, five hits, drew a few penalties, and attracted so much attention from the Flyers it threw them off their game. The Rangers called it "The Avery Effect." Avery added a new dimension to his game by scoring two goals and making it look easy. He now has a goal-a-game in his last three games.

The Flyers, other NHL teams, and their fans love to hate Avery the super-pest and the so-called King of the Agitators, but he has changed. The Flyers kept running at him all night, expecting him to retaliate by dropping his gloves, getting into a fight, and then being sent to the penalty box. That was the old Sean Avery.

The new and improved Sean Avery still plays with an edge, yaps or chirps a lot, doing a lot of trash talking on the ice, and dishes out hits, but now he is less likely to take a stupid penalty and more likely to play it smart and retaliate by scoring a goal.

Avery scored the last goal of the game the day before, in Philadelphia, and celebrated the first goal against the Flyers in MSG the usual way: He skated three quick strides, went down on one knee, raised his stick in the air with his left hand, and pumped his right fist in the well-known gesture of success. He looked up at the Rangers fans in the stands and they roared their approval.

On the previous play, Avery had drawn a penalty in front of the Philadelphia net by roughing it up with a couple of Flyers and then backing off a bit so one of them was sent to the 'sin bin' and not him. Then he scored on the Rangers power play, which had not been working until that game. He went on to get a Gordie Howe hat trick.

When a player scores a goal, gets an assist, and participates in a penalty in a single game, it's an unofficial variation on the hat trick, named in honour of Gordie Howe. Some say it has to be a goal, an assist, and a fight. Howe was known for his scoring ability and his fists, not to mention his elbows.

The Gordie Howe hat trick is not an official statistic, but The Hockey News and several teams have tracked it since the 1996-97 NHL season. Howe had two of them. Avery got his by scoring two power play goals, getting an unofficial assist on his own goal, a penalty for interference on the goalkeeper, which started a skirmish, and he was credited with five hits.

A dime is a hockey term describing a play which has a hockey player earning an assist on his own goal. On his first goal of the game, Avery fought for the puck in the Flyers corner, passed it back to Wade Redden on the blue line, shook off two Flyers, headed for the front of the net, and Redden got the puck across to Derek Morris at the other point, who slapped it along the ice to Avery, who tipped it in the net with the tip of his stick, over the Flyers goalie to put the Rangers ahead 1-0.

Avery's dramatic return had some Rangers fans talking about another famous returning player, remembering when their most popular captain, Mark Messier, left the team but then returned to lead them to be reunited with Wayne Gretzky and lead the team on a suprising Stanley Cup run. The current Ranger team was out of the playoffs a week ago but now they are once again dreaming of competing for the Cup.

After being named the first star of the game and waving quickly to the crowd chanting his name, Avery hurried to the locker room to join his team. In post-game interviews he said only that he felt grateful to play for the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden and help his team earn a win, according to the many reporters.

Avery has never even tried to take credit for the Rangers turnaround. Most reporters give the credit to three things: hiring fiery coach John Tortorella, his game plan featuring aggressive attack all game, the addition of forward Nik Antropov and defenseman Derek Morris at the NHL Trade Deadline, and Avery rejoining the team.

A media circus has followed Avery's return to the Rangers short weeks ago after he started making his comeback with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL a month ago. The Wolf Pack went on a seven game winning streak after Avery joined their lineup and saw their home attendance soar with an extra two thousand fans in the stands per game. The same thing happened wherever they played.

The Rangers went on a three game win streak when Avery rejoined the team and they are now 4 - 2 with Avery in the lineup. There was a lot of hype and skepticism surrounding his return, but being named the first star of the Game of the Week gave the story a Hollywood ending. The game had the feel of a happy ending in a Hollywood movie.

Rangers GM Glen Sather predicted Tortorella would learn to love Avery for what he brings to the team, but he had to see it in MSG to believe it. Many were skeptical that the Sean Avery Saga would turn into the best story in the NHL this year.

The reviews in newspapers around the world, including Taiwan and Israel, the next day were raves. They told the story: Avery stars as Rangers beat Flyers 4-1,  Rangers' new sheriff is on target, NBC Puts Focus On Controversial Sean Avery During NHL Coverage, and Avery and Rangers Hope To Continue Playoff Push.

The Rangers have a dozen games in the next month as the stretch run leads up to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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