You’d think that of Sean Avery’s two jobs — professional hockey player and budding journalist — the first would have been more secure. But you’d be wrong! Yesterday, the Dallas Stars announced that, even though the six-game league suspension for his “sloppy seconds” comment has ended, he won’t be retuning to the team. They could trade him, send him to the minor leagues, or arrange a buyout, but he won’t don a Stars sweater again.
Even the most ardent Avery haters would probably agree that while what he said was crude, and immature, and not something you’d necessarily want to explain to your kids, it’s not worth banning him from the team just 23 games into a four-year contract. (Seriously, is what he said that much worse than Shaq rapping “Kobe, tell me how my ass taste?”) Actually, the punishment is so severe that it’s pretty obvious that this now has very little to do with the comment at all.
It had been apparent for weeks that the Avery signing wasn’t really working out. The team was struggling (for reasons not necessarily related to Avery), and he wasn’t meshing with his new teammates. And while we’re sure that’s partially Avery’s fault — he’s been known to be less than kind to teammates sometimes — losing only compounds the problem. Avery can be good for a locker room, or at least tolerated in one, when a team is winning. When they’re not, all bets are off.
To their credit, the rest of the Stars quite explicitly said they didn’t want him back, even while co-GM Brett Hull was talking nonsense about wanting “what is best” for Avery. Of course, pinning this on Avery is in the best interest of Hull, who, knowing full well what he was getting with Avery, woefully misjudged his own team’s ability to handle a guy like him. So Hull was probably just waiting for any excuse to cut him loose: a silly comment, a parking violation, bogarting the skate-sharpening machine, or whatever.
Love him or hate him, Avery’s mere presence is good for the NHL. He’s not going to single-handedly ruin the sport’s good-guy reputation, but he will single-handedly draw lots of eyeballs — even if many of them are rolling at his antics. And in a sport that’s always struggled to showcase its mean streak without explicitly promoting it, it’s on the verge of losing its most marketable villain for a long time. After all, this and this don’t really compare to this.