by SENShobo on 12/03/08 at 06:31 PM ET
Avery shot his mouth off, not a soul the least bit surprised.
The reaction to his suspension, however, has been shocking, in that him receiving one shocked or upset anyone at all.
Was it the wrong thing to say, was it detrimental to the NHL, does Avery need to have a talk with Bettman and merit a suspension? Yes, on all counts.
It’s sad that some cannot see the objectification of women in that comment of his, but whether or not it offends you, it offends plenty of others. Women, tragically, remain the largest group (I’ll guess that half the planet is female) that can still be marginalized and disrespected, and it is sad that it could go so unnoticed, or that it would have had to have been a comment aimed at a smaller minority within the population to get a bigger reaction.
Those comments, so premeditated, are nothing new from Avery, and a suspension is warranted. There are far more clever methods to agitate one’s opponents; just ask another well-despised pest, Jarkko Ruutu:
“You have to be two different people—on and off the ice,” Ruutu said.
“All he wants is attention. The owner said it right.”
That would be Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks.
“I completely support the league’s decision to suspend Sean Avery,” Hicks said in a statement.
“Had the league not have suspended him, the Dallas Stars would have. This organization will not tolerate such behavior, especially from a member of our hockey team. We hold our team to a higher standard and will continue to do so.”
On and off the ice is an important distinction to make, not that Avery’s comments should be accepted on the ice, but that Andre Roy and Adam Mair are two players who have both been suspended for taking on-ice tension off the ice, storming to their opponents’ dressing rooms after the game, laying down a few angry but not offensive words, and both being punished (although not equally) for it. Interference is called when you hit a player without the puck, unsportsmanlike conduct when you cause trouble after the whistle’s been blown, and this instant is no different, taking things too far off the ice, and in an unacceptable way. Even his own comments months ago about Jarome Iginla being boring prove that you can rile people up without crossing lines.
There’s a good run up of past incidents with Avery on TSN:
2005: Makes comments about French Canadian players who wear visors after being hit by Denis Gauthier. “I think it was typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not back anything up.” Avery would later apologize.
2005: Avery denies saying anything wrong after being accused by Georges Laraque of making a racial slur. The NHL looks into the incident but does not take action due to lack of evidence.
2006: Avery argues with Ducks announcer Brian Hayward. The forward refers to Hayward as an “embarrassment”, “(terrible) announcer”, and a “(terrible) player”.
2006: The Kings send Avery home for last three games of the season.
2007: Avery is fined ($2,500) after a pre-game confrontation with Toronto’s Darcy Tucker.
He has clearly done this before, been punished for it before, and it’s far from the first time that the League has taken past precedents with respect to incidents and parties involved when increasing the punishment.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks gave many reasons as to why he felt this was a bad move, but it’s not hard to see past them.
Yes, it seems odd that, after tonight’s game in Edmonton, Avery will have been suspended for two games for his comments, longer than Pronger was suspended for a pair of hits to the head during the 2007 Western Conference Finals against Detroit and the Cup Finals against Ottawa, receiving a single game for each incident. I have argued before that those were poorly meted out punishments, and that the larger stage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Finals should merit longer suspensions, not shorter ones.
What remains is that that is in the past, this is in the present. Escalating his suspension based on all past cases involving him is entirely appropriate, and a sign of the League taking things seriously. Just as they suspended Ruutu two games for an elbow to the Habs’ Lapierre, and then escalated it to five games when the Isles’ Pock did the same to Ottawa’s Shannon, resulting in a concussion, the League has been showing sound judgment and a fair judicial hand.
No, I won’t argue that the League has been perfect in its judgments in my eyes, but this is showing that they are aiming for consistency, both in punishment, and in actually giving it, rather than letting incidents slide. While it will be at least a two-game suspension, this has so far been due to the fact that Avery’s continued antics warrant him sitting down with Bettman. Had he made these remarks on the first day of a four day break (not that he could have in this incident), he would have been suspended in the same way, seen Bettman in the same way, but perhaps all that would have transpired before a single Dallas game, and he may only have gotten a single game suspension. He chose a very poor time, right before back-to-back games, to choose his words, and the blame for much of the length of the suspension lies with him for that, and with him for everything else he’s done in his career.
If the League backs down, and goes back to letting incidents slide, going light on its star players when they commit infractions, then there is nothing wrong with going back to criticism. But in this case, the League is showing that past records matter, just as they do everywhere else in law. Now if only mens rae (the guilty mind) appeared to matter just as much to the League as actus reus (the guilty act), but that’s another discussion for another day.
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