“All hockey players are bilingual. They know English, and profanity.’’ -- Gordie Howe
Sean Avery’s “sloppy-seconds’’ quote regarding his ex-girlfriends’ status as puck bunnies is proof, of course, that chivalry is dead. But this story goes much deeper than that.
“I just wanted to comment on how it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds,’’Avery Tuesday in preparation of a Stars-at-Flames game. “I don’t know what that’s about. But, enjoy the game tonight.”
Yes, he kisses his mother with that mouth he used to portray actress Elisha Cuthbert (and maybe actress Rachel Hunter) as slutty. Yes, the Dallas Stars acquired him this summer knowing he has a bad boy penchant for saying off-color things. Stupid things. Allegedly things. Sean Avery is a talented, offensive and odd bird.
But there is something more to the story of Sean Avery’s NHL-ordered indefinite suspension for uttering words that wouldn’t rank in The Top 1,000 Offensive Things Said By Hockey People. A six-pack of reflective takes:
TAKE 1: The PR arm of the NHL faced a confounding decision here. Do they protect the “integrity of the sport’’? (The reason given for having given him the boot.) Or do they use Avery’s lack of gentlemanly graces as a headline-grabber, as my man Would there be a greater good for a sport that has tumbled off the front page? Let Avery’s comments get their air time … let the Stars-at-Flames game get its ice time. … let Dion Phaneuf, a tough dude who plays for Calgary and is now the boyfriend of the offended Miss Cuthbert, who just happens to be a Calgary girl, have at Sean, and you’d have yourself the attention-garnering Ice Fight of the Century … and let the Flames administer some frontier justice. … And it’s over.
TAKE 2: Hockey players say things. Gordie Howe – a all-time elder statesman – was right about his time and he’d still be right about today. Black players catch hell in that league. So do pretty boys. (Avery gets called “fag’’ all the time because he’s a fashion-modelly sort who plays with dolls; Mike Modano gets called “fag,’’ too, for no reason more than because he’s more handy with a stick than with his fists.) Europeans gets made fun of. So do Canadians with French surnames.
Rather ironically, Avery’s supervisor, Stars co-GM Brett Hull, is in a position to have to support the NHL penalty. That despite the fact that he a) brought Avery here because he’s a stir-it-up punk and that b) Hully was himself a colorfully outspoken star. Let me put it this way: If the NHL had ever censored Hully the way it is now hoping to muzzle Avery, Brett certainly would’ve never gotten into network broadcasting and probably would’ve never become the Stars’ co-GM.
TAKE 3: Legally speaking, the ultimate defense for a remark like Avery’s is clear: No matter how offensive, it cannot be libelous or slanderous if it is true. And let’s be frank here: Elisha, famous in part for acting in “Old School’’ and on “24,’’ is even more famous in hockey circles for being attracted to players. Rachel Hunter, same deal. Alyssa Milano dates baseball players. Gabrielle Union dates football and basketball players. Kendra Wilkinson used to fake-date Hef, then hung with Chargers pass-rusher Shawne Merriman and is now getting married to Eagles receiver Hank Baskett.
Avery has opted to not go that rout; But that doesn't change the truth: The jocks are “groupies’’ for the movie stars. They movie stars are “groupies’’ for the jocks. Everybody in that circle dates everybody. (Modano himself, now happily married to actress Willa Ford, dated so many Hollywood babes in his bachelor days that they shoulda given him his SAG card.)
So is it a crime to point that out … using unsavory locker-room lingo?
TAKE 4: About that lingo: I’m not certain what Avery was attempting to accomplish here. Hurting the girl’s feelings? Getting some press? Is Sean Avery simply a real-life version of an internet troll?
Surely, there are some things better left unsaid, some phrases best left on the team bus.
Have I ever used the phrase “sloppy seconds’’? Have you? Has NHL commissioner Gary Bettman?
I simply was not offended by the phrase. I was slightly bemused. Maybe I’m ethically bankrupt or maybe guns-in-sweatpants, Pacman-and-bodyguard and War In Iraq has distracted me. (Good thing Sean didn’t shoot himself in the thigh or ingest StarCaps, eh?) But the length of my emotional reaction was that the comments made me want to watch the upcoming game. … and it made me want to make sure Sean Avery never dates my sister.
TAKE 5: In my many conversation over a decade-and-a-half of friendship with Modano, we often turn to the lack of formal education of those in the hockey world.
“You make it sound like I didn't go to class in high school!’’ Mo once said to me. “Hey, we've got some Grade-9 guys in here (on the Stars team). But I got my diploma, buddy!''
Did you really, Mike?
"Well,'' Modano said, fake-sheepishly, "at least I got my G.E.D. Almost the same thing, right?''
Oh, and what are Grade-9 guys? That would be guys who graduated from the ninth grade before quitting school and moving on to hockey full-time.
I don’t point this out as a rip, but rather as support for what Howe said; NHL guys go to high school only to play amateur hockey, and then play pro hockey only to make money to buy beer and chase girls. (An over-simplification, but only by a little!)
Even hockey journalism has its rough edges. Check out this Toronto Star column in which Cox’ collection of phrases includes calling Avery “loathsome,’’ “appalling,’’ “disgusting,’’ and “vile.’’ He called Avery “the creepy Dallas forward’’ and compared him to Mike Tyson, to John Rocker and to hockey-kiddie-porn defendant David Frost and to John Rocker.
Hitler. The columnist forgot Hitler.
Anyway, one person called another person “sloppy seconds.’’ And then another person called that first person a vile Tyson/Frost/Rocker think-alike.
Aren’t we all even now?
TAKE 6: There is a deeper issue here. If you arrange with the Stars to interview Avery, the PR staff will wisely guide to very specific teammates who will wisely avoid saying anything incendiary about their teammate. Other veteran Stars? The organization would just as soon you not talk to them – because they don’t much like the guy.
The league probably has a hard-on for Avery; he’s been a pain in their ass for years, and this is a we’ve-had-enough sort of penalty. Bigger problem? In the Stars’ room today, there is nobody weeping for Sean Avery, nobody supporting Sean Avery, nobody even really coming to the defense of Sean Avery.
Sean’s got plenty of sloppy seconds, plenty of backups, when it comes to women. But when it comes to teammates, he’s got no backups at all.
... written by Jason K , December 04, 2008
So to get suspended in the NFL you have to illegally carry a gun and shoot yourself... to get suspended in the NHL, you have to say sloppy seconds to the media.
Avery never had a chance with this team anyway. Modano and Morrow did not want him here. And he has been one of the better Stars players this year (not saying much though). And Turco needs to worry about stopping pucks instead of making comments.
Anyway, what he said was dumb, but he shouldn't have been suspended for it. Apparently there's other stuff he's done in the locker room to help alienate players as well.
I hope Hull doesn't get canned for this either. He was trying to bring grit to this team and get back into the 98/99 team mold instead of what they've been for the last 7-8 years.