Like him or not, Sean Avery gets it. "It" is attention. "It" is media coverage. "It" is national exposure. Quite frankly the NHL hasn't gotten "It" in a long time and most likely won't judging from the way it handled Avery's latest headline-grabbing comments.
The NHL suspended Avery indefinitely Tuesday for inflammatory comments he made following a morning skate in Calgary, Alberta. This is what he said: "I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada. I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight."
For those of you who don't read US Weekly or People, Avery was referring to his past relationships with actress Elisha Cuthbert, who is now dating Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf and had been linked to Mike Komisarek of the Canadiens, and model Rachel Hunter, who is now with Los Angeles Kings center Jarrett Stoll.
This is why Avery is the best thing to happen to the NHL and why it's no surprise the NHL, which seemingly does everything in its power to make the sport irrelevant, is trying to stop him.
I took a look at the front pages of five prominent sports Web sites Tuesday night and of the nearly 100 stories, columns and pictures there was only one mention of the NHL: Avery's "sloppy seconds" remark. If he hadn't made the statement and subsequently been suspended, I'm fairly certain the NHL, which is nearly at its mid-season mark, would have gone another day without being mentioned on the front page of any of those sites.
It's amazing a league that condones fighting on the ice would be so adamantly opposed to a war of words off it. Some might say Avery's comments and behavior aren't the kind of attention the league needs. I couldn't disagree more. Avery isn't doing anything illegal. He's not shooting himself at a club or pushing a security guard against a broken mirror at a restaurant or taking illegal supplements -- he's trash talking. Suspending Avery for making controversial comments before a game would be like punishing a fighter for berating an opponent to hype an upcoming match. Avery knows what makes headlines; unfortunately, the NHL doesn't -- and doesn't seem interested in making them, either.
Even before Avery's comments about his exes essentially being "puck bunnies," I was looking forward to Tuesday's Stars-Flames game because of this summer comment: "Our commissioner hasn't realized that he needs to probably do a better job of marketing the game and certainly some of the players in it. Nobody cares about [Flames right winger] Jarome Iginla and guys like that. They're just not exciting enough. They don't bring enough to the game."
Avery, of course, is right. He single-handedly made a game between the last-place Dallas Stars and the sixth-place Calgary Flames relevant nationally -- and the NHL subsequently suspended him and any attention the game would have gotten. It's probably just as well. The only way to watch the game was through an online feed on the league's Web site, which streamed the game from Dallas affiliate My27. Like I said, the NHL doesn't get "It" and likely never will.