Avery act prompts NHL to amend unsportsmanlike rule

The NHL acted swiftly Monday to change the interpretation of the unsportsmanlike conduct rule after Steve Avery of the New York Rangers waived his stick in front of New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur.

Rangers forward blocked vision of New Jersey's Brodeur by waving stick in goalie's face

Sean Avery no longer will be waving his stick in the faces of goalies at a National Hockey League arena near you.

The league acted swiftly on Monday, changing the interpretation of Rule 75 — unsportsmanlike conduct — to eliminate such activity.

"An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play," Colin Campbell, the NHL director of hockey operations said in a statement.

During a 5-on-3 power in New Jersey's 4-3 win overtime win Sunday night, Avery planted himself in the crease of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. Holding his stick upward, the New York Rangers forward waved it side to side to block Brodeur's vision.

"I've played for 15 years in this league. I've been watching games for 33 years. I had never seen that in my life," said Brodeur, whose team trails 2-1 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final. "I don't think that kind of behaviour should be done in front of the net, but there is no rule for it."

Avery eventually scored with the man-advantage to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead, but it's what led to the goal was the pressing issue.

"That's not something that anyone writing the rule book has anticipated, and I don't think that we view that as part of our game," said Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford, an NHL goalie for 13 seasons. "With that being said, Sean Avery didn't do anything to break any rules.

"With every rule that is written, or how we try to change the game, somebody gets creative. Sean has gone beyond being a little bit creative on this one."

Pushing the envelope

That is what you get from Avery, a talented player always looking for ways to push the envelope. He rarely stops talking on the ice or the bench, whether it's to opponents, teammates, officials or anyone who will listen.

"I've never seen that before," Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Ryan Whitney said. "It seemed odd to me. He's not in a position to get a rebound if there is one because his stick is up in the air."

The trick for players matched against Avery is to ignore him, but that is easier said than done. Avery has the knack of riling up people to the point they find themselves mouthing off, or worse, getting so angered that he draws a penalty from someone who will do almost anything to shut him up.

"He's an idiot," Penguins forward Gary Roberts said.

Roberts, 41, is no stranger to Avery, and his 21 seasons of NHL experience did nothing to help him keep his cool.

Back in November, Avery goaded Roberts into a four-minute high-sticking penalty that led to a goal in a Rangers victory.

"A guy like that, they take it a little bit more of an insult after you disrespect them and all they've done for the game and how great they are," Avery said then of Roberts.

Brodeur is no exception. Avery has crashed into him on several occasions, dropped him with shoves and punches, and goaded him into trips and swipes.

In Game 2 of this series, Avery stood in front of Brodeur long after play headed back up ice. The two jawed, and Brodeur even leaned his head against Avery's helmet during the exchange.

"Here we are trying to sell the game, and stuff like that is going on," Devils forward John Madden said. "I just find it childish and I don't agree with any of it.

"There's not much you can do without taking a penalty or doing something stupid. You've got to ignore him and play on and not let him be a factor in the game."

Avery isn't speaking to reporters during the series.

With files from the Associated Press