Sean Avery doesn't have many friends left in the NHL. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)
So Sean Avery is sorry for SloppyGate. I’m fairly confident it’s more in a Dr. Frankensteinian, “my-latest-experiment-has-gone-horribly-awry” way than a truly remorseful manner.
But hey, sorry is sorry. And in spite of his noteworthy paramours and glamour-laden adventures, there’s no doubt hockey’s baddest bad boy is the sorriest s.o.b. on the block, trapped in a mess of his own making, certain to be shunned by his peers and patrons in the hockey world for a considerably long time to come.
Regardless of the punishment he receives from commissioner Gary Bettman, it’s still a serious sentence. Which is something to keep in mind while a pack of unhinged moralists crusade to have Avery drawn, quartered and frozen in carbonite Han Solo-style for his most recent episode of untoward behavior.
Before you enlighten me with volume upon volume of feminist treatises, let me be clear: there should be no room for any kind of misogyny in any hockey league. Anyone who is even the faintest bit familiar with my work – or has seen me divvy up costs on a date – knows that gender equality is high on my list of priorities.
But honestly, all this for two lousy words? After everything else Avery has said and done during his seven controversy-filled years in the NHL? Yeah, his comments qualify as something more than a tempest in a teapot, but they don’t enter into Jimmy The Greek or Fuzzy Zoeller territory either.
Moreover, in a society where the Jackass TV/movie series and “Of Love” (Flavor of Love, Rock of Love) sleaze-a-thons are targeted toward teenagers virtually every evening of every week, Avery’s colloquialism, though crude and callous, seems antiquated in the extreme.
And anyway, where exactly were these gallant defenders of women’s rights when the Hockey Hall of Fame denied female players another opportunity this year to be recognized for their contributions to the sport?
Funny, but I didn’t hear any words like “disgraceful” or “pathetic” at that time.
That tells me this backlash is more about the hockey establishment’s out-and-out loathing of Avery than it is about the honor of Elisha Cuthbert or Rachel Hunter.
If the Stars winger were a little more discerning in carrying out his utterly contrived media stunts, he could easily have avoided his current quagmire. Unfortunately for him, he’s done nothing but give his adversaries additional material with which to carve him.
And that’s because the real truth is Avery doesn’t care about hockey anymore, to the point where he doesn’t think twice about demonstrating a near-total lack of passion for a game that’s given him so much more than his mid-tier on-ice skills deserve.
At this point, Avery has devolved into more performance artist than pro athlete, more showman than evildoer, more caricature than character. His social circle now is comprised of fashion icons such as Anna Wintour and Hollywood actresses like Catherine Keener; he’s bored by the single-minded monotony of an NHL season and he’s out to amuse and entertain himself before he does anything else.
That’s what one source close to the Stars told The Hockey News Wednesday night.
“The problem with Sean isn’t that he’s a sexist goof,” said the source, who spoke on condition his name not be used. “There’s a long, long history of sexist goofs in the NHL, from broadcasters to players to GMs to owners to reporters, so that isn’t what bothers the guys in that dressing room.
“What does bother them is that this is another example of Sean not putting all of his focus into the team and the game…(S)ince he’s come to Dallas this year, it’s like Sean is there in body, but only halfway in spirit. It’s like he wants the millions of dollars and the fame and business opportunities that come with being an NHL player, but not the dozens of other sacrifices you have to make to get those good things in your life.”
Avery is many things: cold-blooded calculator; rampaging id; churlish cad.
What he is not, though, is The Worst Thing Ever To Happen To Hockey. (That title was taken by Cooperalls many years ago.)
Bettman can hammer Avery with a lifetime suspension if it makes him feel better, but it won’t change the fallen Star’s self-promoting mindset. In fact, a permanent ban would only martyrize someone who shouldn’t be martyred.
Allowing Sean Avery to be himself seems penance enough.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.