Wednesday, December 03, 2008

By now we’ve all read or heard or seen National Hockey League forward Sean Avery’s amazingly insulting comment about his former girlfriends and their NHL beaus.

Avery has been suspended indefinitely by the league, as he should have been. Gamesmanship is one thing, but seeking out the camera to deliver personal swipes is crossing the line.

This is what we expect from Avery, a mildly talented buffoon who has spent his career being sought and then rejected. Now on his fourth team, he comes in and makes himself welcome by aggravating the opposition, but eventually wears out his welcome with his attention-whoring ways.

And yet franchises continue to hire him and the public continues to enable his behaviour. He gets paid – and very well – to be a jerk.

So if Avery, who has managed to pile up all of 177 points in 402 career games, isn’t the problem, who is?

We are.

We, the hockey-loving public, who continue to mouth platitudes about how it’s necessary to have a “character” guy on a winning team – we’re to blame.

No team on which Avery has played has advanced past the second round of the playoffs. He did play 36 games for the Red Wings in their run to the Stanley Cup in 2001-02, but he was deemed expendable and left off the postseason roster. The next season, same deal.

And “character” is an interesting word. If a guy is wearing your rival’s jersey and he makes remarks about someone’s bout with cancer, he’s a complete tool. But if he does it in your team’s sweater, he’s a “character” guy.

No, he isn’t. He’s just a tool whose parents did a poor job raising him.

The NHL is.

The league inadvertently protected Avery by suspending him before he could take the ice against Calgary on Tuesday. Had he played, Avery would have faced Dion Phaneuf (who is dating one of Avery’s ex-girlfriends) and the rest of the Flames, who would have been likely to run him repeatedly.

Or perhaps they wouldn’t have. The NHL is also protecting Avery and other idiots like him by keeping the instigator rule, which penalizes those who would ask Avery to back up his mouth with two fists.

The rule was created with good intentions, but instead has allowed a proliferation of headhunting, boarding and other chippy play to go unpunished. That’s ridiculous, and it’s going to get a superstar’s career ended.

Drop the rule and let the players police themselves, NHL – they’ll do a far better job than you have.

The hockey media is.

Was there really any reason to even talk with Avery?

Is he an integral part of the Stars’ game plan coming into Tuesday night’s contest? At 10 points (and 77 penalty minutes) through 23 games, no, he isn’t.

But the media knows Avery has a big mouth and either isn’t afraid to use it or is too stupid to know when to keep it shut. So the cameras and the recorders come out when he deigns to speak.

It's lazy and it's not journalism -- it's lowest common denominator junk. Use better judgment, media types. You know the difference between news and tripe, and so do we.

If you stop giving Avery a platform to spout his garbage, he’ll wither and die like the weed he is.

And we’ll all be the better for it.

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