December 05, 2008
So moments after we posted why women aren't offended by Sean Avery's remarks, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed how offended he was by Avery's actions, giving the Dallas Stars pest a six-game suspension without pay for his comments in Calgary on Tuesday.
Avery also agreed to seek professional anger-management evaluation and, if necessary, structured counseling in light of his pattern of behavior, which the NHL has deemed unacceptable and antisocial behavior. Avery will not be eligible to play again for the Stars until Dec. 16, when Dallas hosts the Phoenix Coyotes. He has already served two games of the suspension, Tuesday's win against Calgary and Wednesday's loss to Edmonton.
"Mr. Avery has expressed remorse for his recent comments and has sought a professional anger management evaluation," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "I will require that he follow through with that process as a condition of his returning to the ice and that he complies with any and all recommendations."
... "Mr. Avery has been warned repeatedly about his conduct and comments, which have too often been at odds with the manner in which his more than 700 fellow players conduct themselves," Bettman said. "Playing in the National Hockey League is a privilege, requiring a high standard of personal behavior. Mr. Avery forfeits that privilege for six games."
Dallas Stars Blog calculates Avery's financial hit at $124,999.99.
Interesting that the suspension is retroactive to Tuesday. One could interpret this as a four-game suspension with time served, which clearly puts this in line with the League's previous punishments for racial slurs on the ice -- those suspensions would run about three games in serious instances.
So what have we learned from the NHL's actions on this, and by the hockey world's reactions?
Two things we've learned from this mess.
The first is the remarkable gap in moral outrage between American and Canadian media and fans.
Like in the Toronto media chattering class, which treated Avery's "sloppy seconds" quip with near-total indignation; like he had wheeled a flat screen in front of Dion Phaneuf's locker and played a sex tape of himself and Elisha Cuthbert set to Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)." Even the humorous boys at the Kurtenblog couldn't find the mirth in Avery's taunting.
Compare that to this report from Puck Daddy reader Felix, originally from Montreal but now in Dallas, on the local fan reaction to Avery:
On talk radios here in Dallas, people were laughing it off, saying they had no idea why he was even suspended. No one here (at least around the office and on sports talk radio) thought it was a big deal at all, but apparently Stars management did not take it well.
Did anyone else sense a cultural, geographic divide on this issue?
The second is that even though the NHL didn't hit Avery with the 10-gamer some assumed he'd receive, it still has established an unfortunate benchmark for words over deeds.
Yes, Avery was a repeat offender. But as far as tarnishing the NHL's image, his words can't be compared to the violent acts we witness on the ice that truly tarnish the integrity of the game. And the League's swift action here, and complicit action in many cases of on-ice violence, is embarrassing.
And here's what Gary Bettman now believes is what a six-game suspension looks like in his League: