‘Hart Off The Ice’
By Sean Hartnett
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Sean Avery has been called a lot of names throughout his 10-year NHL career. Some flattering, others, well… not so flattering. He’s burned his bridges with entire organizations, past teammates and certain high-profile members of the hockey media.
Avery isn’t perfect and shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than anyone else in the National Hockey League. There are plenty of enemies waiting for Avery to slip up and fall. They already have their knives in hand and are licking their lips, waiting to carve him up.
One word I’ve rarely heard used in connection with Avery’s name is resilient. He’s actually made an effort to curb his behavior and deserves credit from his detractors for flourishing again in the NHL.
When Avery was waived on October 4th, a lot of people around the NHL were smirking privately. It appeared that his career in the NHL was over as no team was willing to take him off the Rangers’ hands. There was considerable speculation that Avery would move to a European club. Even his agent Pat Morris hinted at the possibility, “Sean’s open to playing wherever the Rangers want him to play, whether that’s down in Hartford or over in Europe.”
John Tortorella appeared ready to move on without Avery and felt that the Rangers’ cupboard was stocked with enough talent to give younger players opportunities at Avery’s expense. Through injuries and the inexperience of those ahead of him on the depth chart, Tortorella was faced with little choice but to re-call Avery from the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Connecticut on October 31st.
All along, Rangers fans were vocally demanding Avery’s return and they finally got their wish when he suited up against the Montreal Canadiens on the 5th of November. Since his call-up the Blueshirts have won five consecutive games and have extended their overall win streak to seven.
Avery has scored the opening goal in each of the Rangers’ most recent victories over the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders. Both were opportunistic efforts where he intelligently stayed with the play. It’s not just on the score sheet where Avery is making his mark as he’s also doing all those little things that get underneath the skin of opponents and earn favorable calls from referees.
He certainly isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but Avery and New York go together quite well. New York City of course, is an environment where some shrivel in the face of its enormity and others are able to tap into its consciousness and become embraced by the city. There’s no doubt that Avery has built up a rapport with Ranger fans who seem have his back at all times.
What I’m beginning to finally understand and appreciate about Avery is that he’s willing to take more chances than practically anyone in the NHL. Not every tactic Avery has attempted has come off as a success but that won’t stop him from thinking outside the box.
Whether it was harassing Martin Brodeur during the 2008 playoffs in front of goal or calling one of the all-time great net-minders ‘fatso’ after Brodeur refused to shake his hand at series’ end, Avery has a planned purpose for everything he does. He’ll often embellish contact to try win a call for his team and baits opponents into the penalty box by using a mixture of taunting, name-calling and poking.
Avery understands he doesn’t possess enough skill to be a 30-goal scorer and understands his role with the Rangers. A day will come when Avery finds himself out of work in the hockey world but I don’t think he’ll struggle to be a success once he decides hangs up his skates.
There’s a lot more than what meets the eye with Avery. Whether it is opening a string of bars like his retro New York themed Warren 77, expanding his clout in the fashion world or fine art circles, he’s not going to be looking very long once his hockey days come to an end.
For the moment, Avery’s given the NHL a not so subtle reminder that he intends to stick around for awhile. Avery has taken his latest chance — and is running with it.
Rangers fans – what do you make of Avery’s resurgence? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.