"This young man has had a very trying rookie season, with the litigation, the notoriety, his subsequent deportation to Canada and that country's refusal to accept him, I guess that's more than most 21-year-olds can handle."
While that passage is from the seminal hockey movie Slap Shot, Sean Avery is beginning to accumulate a rap sheet second only to the fictional goon described above, Oggie Oglethorpe.
Indefinite suspensions. Professional anger management treatment. Play that inspires rule changes. A mouth that never seems to close. These are the traits that make Avery the NHL's premier pest.
His latest claim to infamy was in the New York Rangers' Sunday romp over the Edmonton Oilers, when he followed up a good, clean hit on Colin Fraser with a less than spotless dust-up with Ladislav Smid, described by CBCSports.ca's Tim Wharnsby:
"Avery hammered Oilers forward Colin Fraser into the boards and as a result Smid invited Avery to square off. Avery did not appear interested in engaging Smid, but then lambasted the unsuspecting defencemen in the kisser."
The result? A line brawl that saw 126 penalty minutes handed out to eight players.
Sunday's incident/altercation/scene/sideshow was just the latest between the 29-year-old and other NHLers that portrays Avery as someone who does not play well with others.
The combination of arguably the NHL's greatest goaltender and Avery resulted in both fireworks and a new rule for the NHL. Waving and flailing his arms in front of Brodeur's face during a 5-on-3 advantage for the Rangers during Game 3 of their 2008 1st-round playoff series, Avery's "ingenuity" earned him a place in the rule, if not record, books.
(Avery scored shortly after the play, and the Rangers went on to win the series in five games.)
In 2007, Atlanta had finally cracked its post-season curse, meeting up with Avery and the Rangers in the first round. They're still looking for their first playoff win after being swept by New York, thanks in part to Avery being able to rattle Thrashers' then star player Kovalchuk so much so that the Russian didn't even bother to drop his gloves at the end of Game 3 before going at Avery.
Now that Kovalchuk has moved from Atlanta to across the Hudson River with the New Jersey Devils, the two will have another six games every season together. In an exhibition game in September, Kovalchuk invited Avery to zip it, and the two later dropped the gloves.
On April 4, 2009, Avery "accidentally" skated past the Bruins goalie during a TV timeout and made contact with the back of Thomas's head. Not wise, especially when all Thomas saw was a big No. 16 and 'AVERY' skating away. The goalie charged Avery, but only landed a blocker-covered punch on Rangers' forward Fredrik Sjostrom.
"I actually like the way he plays around the net. He's tenacious. He gets in right around the crease but he's not actually doing anything illegal," Thomas said after the game, "but there's lines that you can cross and he seems to have a hard time figuring out what those lines are."
(Thomas registered a shutout in that game and the Bruins clinched the Eastern Conference with the win.)
No stranger to the role of agitator, Toronto's Darcy Tucker was still riled up after Avery allegedly said something inappropriate to Jason Blake at centre-ice before a game between the Rangers and Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Nov. 10, 2007. Blake had earlier revealed that he was suffering from a rare but treatable form of leukemia.
Avery pushed Blake, so Tucker slashed him with his stick, and players from both teams swiftly surrounded the two agitators as they took a swipe at each other and exchanged words.
"He has no sense of class," Tucker said. "And you know, what goes around comes around in this game, eventually."
(New York won 3-2 in a shootout.)
Well, if I have to explain exactly what Avery said about Phaneuf's love interest, actress Elisha Cuthbert, two years ago in Calgary, I'd also ask you how the weather is under that rock you've been living under.
The aftermath was the aforementioned indefinte suspension (soon shortened to six games) that also saw him placed on waivers by the Dallas Stars before the New York Rangers claimed him on re-entry waivers.
The Stars seemed happier without the agitator, winning the game 3-1.
"You have to really appreciate the effort and focus of this club with all that's gone on, never mind today's unfortunate incident shining on our club," Dallas goalie Marty Turco said.
Avery might have fancied himself a lumberjack in a former life from the way he tried to chop down the Maple Leafs defenceman in their game this past Oct. 15.
While the referees were concerned with a scrum in the corner, Komisarek and Avery had some words near the centre-ice boards, when Avery provided a pair of slashes to the foot and leg of Komisarek as exclamation marks to their conversation.
Komisarek returned the favour by cross-checking Avery into the boards midway through the third, but it cost the Toronto player a trip to the penalty box.
"The league will take a look at the video, they'll make their own decision," Komisarek said of Avery's slashes. "I don't think that guy justifies a comment. We got the two points."
(The Maple Leafs won 4-3 in overtime but there was no suspension.)
It didn't take long for trouble to find its way to Avery this season — the second game of the year, he snowed Islanders' goalie Rick DiPietro and was shoved out of the crease by a pair of Isles' players, including Wisniewski.
After the two engaged in some colourful words, Wisniewski made a gesture with his hand toward Avery. Although he said after the game that he he didn’t remember making a gesture, a video of the less-than-family-friendly incident was on YouTube before the game was over. Oh, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance.
It marked one of the handful of occassions Avery was not the focal point of league action, but he did get his two cents in:
"It's pretty obvious what the guy was doing," Avery said. "But I'm sure nothing will happen to him because nothing ever happens. It's interesting, he'd get a warning for something like that.
"Can you imagine if I did that? They sent me to rehab the last time I did something. It's crazy."
(Wisniewski was issued a two-game suspension.)