To those who closely follow NHL news, the retirement of Sean Avery is not exactly “news.” But, having disclaimed both quality and quantity of my posts, I feel neither guilt nor shame about bringing you late “news.”
What a character Sean is! Leave it to him to announce his retirement on Bravo TV. I particularly enjoyed this exchange:
Q. What are your plans for the future, hockey-wise?
AVERY: I am officially retired. I threw my skates in the Hudson. [To Nicole Richie] It’s the river.
RICHIE: I know. I thought you meant that you threw them against Kate Hudson’s face.
AVERY: No. But she, I think, has dated a few hockey players in the past.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Sean, a character people loved or hated, a brief introduction after the jump.
First, the Wiki intro:
Sean Christopher Avery (born April 10, 1980) is a Canadian professional ice hockey player. He formerly played for the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars and New York Rangers. Prior to the NHL, Avery played for the Owen Sound Platers and the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He is well known for his agitating playing style and controversial behavior both on and off the ice. On March 12, 2012, Avery announced his retirement during an interview with Bravo TV, and stated the following day that he plans to pursue a career in advertising.
“Controversial behavior,” of course, only begins to scratch the surface. In a 2007 poll of 283 NHL players, 66.4% said that Sean Avery was the most hated player in the league. Sean is also among the few in the NHL to have the honor of having a rule named after him, the “Avery Rule.” Here is how it works; we all “screen” the goalie when we play. This means you skate in front of him in an attempt to obstruct his view of the play and hope to score while he can’t see. But we try to do it subtly–we face the play with our backs to the goalie so as to not make it obvious. This, of course, was just a gentleman’s understanding (i.e., the “don’t be a dick” rule) and there wasn’t really a rule against it.
But Sean wouldn’t be the “most hated player” without breaking the aforementioned understanding. During the first round playoff games in 2008 between the Rangers and the Devils, Sean turned his back on the play in order to face and screen goaltender Martin Brodeur during a two-man advantage on the power play. Moreover, he waved his hands and stick in front of Marty in an attempt to distract him and block his view. Watch this clip:
Technically, this was not in violation of any rule. In a way, the lawyer in me enjoyed this tactic–take the rules to the limit and see what the implications are when you do so. This is also the reason that, during oral argument in front of the Supreme Court, the Justices would always ask the lawyers many hypothetical questions, e.g. “If we rule this way, would this really horrible thing be the next to happen?”
Well, the NHL took care of that pretty quickly. The following day, the NHL issued an interpretation of the league’s unsportsmanlike conduct rule to cover actions such as the one employed by Avery, which would now result in a minor penalty.
Sean’s tactic also angered Marty so much that he refused to shake Sean’s hand after the series. This, of course, drew a comment from Sean: “Well, everyone talks about how classy or un-classy I am, and fatso (Brodeur) here just forgot to shake my hand I guess.”
Here is another clip of “Top Ten Sean Avery Moments:”
It would be unfair to not mention, of course, that Sean’s tactics earned him the love of the Rangers fans. Sean’s contract expired earlier this season and he was sent to the AHL (the hockey equivalent of “sent to the minors”). During the home game with the Leafs, fans repeated chanted “We want Avery” (9:32 below). This helped, at least for a time, to bring Sean back to the Rangers.
I began to personally notice and follow Sean during the gay marriage debate in New York. Sean came out as an unequivocal supporter of gay rights. According to HRC strategist Brian Ellner, Avery is the first professional athlete in New York to “publicly support marriage equality.” Sean also personally appeared in video encouraging acceptance of gay athletes, and has offered to personally appear next to any athlete who wants to come out to his/her teammates.
In his other charitable work, Sean stripped for Marc Jacobs. No!! Not what you’re thinking!!! It was to advocate skin cancer prevention. (People, get your minds out of the gutter!)
Sean also owns a bar in NYC called “Warren 77.” I have gone there before; it’s a very nice sports bar, though a bit out-of-the-way for me to go. I liked it, and, when having a chance, will definitely visit again.
So, love him or hate him, Sean was definitely a character who evokes strong emotions in people. For my own judgement, I apply a simple test: was the world of hockey a better place (at least a more entertaining place) because of (or despite) Sean? To me, the answer is an unequivocal “Yes.” That, friends, is enough for Sean to forever endear himself to me. Best wishes in your retirement, Sean.
P.S.: Sean, if you are reading this, let’s go get drinks! I promise not to bring up Marty.