Baseball unites America, but it's hockey and the hatred of Sean Avery that appears to unite North America from coast-to-coast to coast to coast. Honestly, you would think Avery was some kind of hungry ghost who haunts the hockey world.
Ask hockey fans across North America who they like in the playoffs, and they say the name of the home team or a family favourite. Ask them who they hate, and they are most likely to say "Sean Avery."
In some cultures, people believe hungry ghosts will lick your lips if you eat garlic or onions, or anything in that family. A hungry ghost is a creature with a big mouth, a narrow neck, and a big belly, who is always hungry and can never get enough.
Avery has a big mouth, a big neck, an athlete's stomach, and he plays hockey as though he can never get enough. He has been called many things, from super-pest and king of the agitators, to puckface, so why not add hungry ghost to the list.
The headline in a Canadian Press story read, "Washington Caps see a different hunger in the new-look Rangers." Avery plays hockey like a hungry ghost. He haunts you. He annoys you. He can attach himself to you, get under your skin, and drive you crazy.
Ask the goalies of the NHL, especially Martin Brodeur of the Devils and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins.
Google "Sean Avery" or "New York Rangers" and you will find hundreds of stories about how Avery is expected to haunt the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. The New York Times said the Rangers will have an edge in the first game, as the Caps have not seen the Rangers with Avery.
Their pre-game report concluded "you can expect the Unsavory Avery to be a menace and test Washington’s discipline, as he tries to distract the opposition and change the game’s momentum."
From Timmins, in Northern Ontario, the word is that Avery is a shift disturber, according to the Timmins Daily Press.
The Boston Herald asks, "How quickly will Sean Avery embarrass the league?" and answers their own question this way: "We'll give him five minutes into Wednesday night’s series opener with Washington. ..."
The Edmonton Sun says "We're loathe to say this, but Rangers shift disturber Sean Avery has the ability to make a difference." Their headline said "Possible Playoff Hero".
Down in Phoenix, Arizona, the Star Phoenix reminded readers "Last spring the irascible, crazy-as-a-fox Avery created a giant hoo-hah when he waved his stick in front of goalie Martin Brodeur's face."
Canada.com says, "If Sean Avery is able to get under Ovechkin's skin, we could see some real fireworks."
24 Hours Vancouver, on the Pacific coast, says, "Mention Sean Avery's potential for shift-disturbing antics in the series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers and watch the smile drain from the faces of Ovechkin and the Caps coach."
Daytona Beach News-Journal, on the Atlantic coast, asks, "Can Sean Avery actually help the Rangers win?" and then opines "Look, even Rangers fans know Avery is pretty much a jerk who does a lot of irresponsible things on the ice."
New York Daily News reports "seven months after Sean Avery walked out the door, a most bizarre set of circumstances led the NHL's most hated player back to Broadway."
The Washington Times predicted the Caps goalie, Jose Theodore, bruises his ribs after he's run over by Sean Avery.
USA Today had something positive to say, in a back-handed way: "Tortorella originally didn't want Sean Avery on his team, but John made amends and Avery has turned out to be a very good player for him. Avery has calmed down but still is feisty and he has helped the Rangers."
The SBIndependent says, "Sean Avery should have a great series as well, getting under the skin of the Capital’s star players like Ovechkin, Green and Alexander Semin."
Philadelphia likes Avery ever since he gave the Penguins home ice advantage. The Philadelphia Metro says, "Sean Avery—who was fantastic in Sunday’s 4-3 win in Philadelphia—and Ryan Callahan will be the catalysts if the Rangers upset the Caps."
The Metro Canada, in Halifax, claimed Avery as one of its own, calling him a former Cole Harbour resident and saying he is notable in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.
Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post told the Caps what to do: "The first time Sean Avery tries anything, the first time he shoulders Alex Ovechkin, or rakes him with a stick, or mouths off."
The Dallas Morning News says, "Go ahead and admit it, you follow what he does. Bottom line, Avery will find a way to stir the pot for the New York Rangers."
Newsday says, "Another tactic may be to have irritant Sean Avery - skating with Scott Gomez and Nik Antropov - try to get under the skin of Green or Semin as well as Ovechkin."
Jay Feaster, writing in the Hockey News, devoted a whole column to Avery and what a GM can do to limit his impact. It began with making a DVD of Avery's greatest hits and complaining constantly to the supervisor of the on-ice officials.
"Skate away from the antics, block out the verbal abuse, take the gloved punch in the face and basically ask for another. Better yet, score on the ensuing power play," he says.