August 02, 2011
Sean Avery's(notes) transformation into the poster boy for cultural tolerance was jarring to some fans with long memories, because it was a scant six years ago that Georges Laraque(notes) of the Edmonton Oilers accused him of deplorable intolerance.
Laraque said that the then-Los Angeles Kings agitator called him "a monkey," a claim which Avery dismissed as a fabrication. This followed another informal audition for a United Nations ambassadorship by Avery in which he called Denis Gauthier's(notes) check that concussed Jeremy Roenick(notes) in the preseason "typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on." (Still wonder how Luc Robitaille felt about that one.)
Alex Frolov was Avery's teammate in Los Angeles from 2003-07 and then again with the New York Rangers last season. Since there's a global obsession with Avery's unique skills set, Frolov was asked by Sport.ru in Russia about why he's so reviled. The following is a translated quote by Slava Malamud of Sport-Express:
"[He] isn't a fool. Lately he has become calmer, smarter. Before he'd get swept away with emotions and do something stupid. To mention each and every one of his stunts … something always happens around him, it's a part of his job. He needs to be talked about. He loves it, he feels at home in the spotlight.
"Sometimes he called opponents 'black monkeys.' He did a lot of things. I can't remember [them] all."
Predictably, this quote was covered from the mainstream to the blogs, with Jesse Spector writing on the NY Daily News Blueshirts Blog: "It's stunning, appalling and particularly noteworthy given that Avery's offseason has been most notable for his outspoken support of marriage equality."
As Spector later found out, Frolov denies ever making the accusation about Avery. But even if he did, the bigger point about Avery was lost in translation.
Frolov, who will play with Omsk in the KHL next season, had a lengthy chat with the Daily News about the quote, denying he ever said anything about "black monkeys" to the reporter.
"I didn't say anything about Aves calling someone bad language — I was saying he's really emotional and that in the past he could say the wrong thing," Frolov told The News. "It wasn't particularly about black people. He doesn't have anything against black people. I mean, he's a nice person, and he wouldn't say something bad about black people or Asian people or any kind of people. It's some kind of misunderstanding."
(Oh, great, now we're bringing the Asians into this. Jim Paek interview accusation in 3…2…)
Was Frolov merely making a reference to the Laraque situation? From the News:
"I never heard him call anyone anything like that," Frolov told The News. "Russian journalists, they were asking about him, and sometimes he could say something stupid, especially in the past. He's not a bad person. He's a good guy. … I didn't try to say anything bad about Aves or say that he was trying to say something bad about anyone else."
(Hold on a second while we ask Dmitry what the Russian phrase for "panicky backtracking" is …)
What we have here is a failure to communicate. Frolov's full of it — check the block quote from Sport.ru:
What Google Translate does is make it read like Avery has continued the practice of calling opponents "black monkeys." What Frolov likely did was reference the Laraque matter as an example of bad behavior to contrast it with the person "Sean Eyvri" is today.
And that's the point, isn't it? That at sometime around Sloppy Seconds Gate, Avery decided he didn't like the person staring back at him through $300 fashion glasses in that mirror from Urban Outfitters, and decided to change his behavior? That he's still a pain in the ass but not the pain in the ass dropping racial taunts?
If only the takeaway quote from Frolov had been "calmer and smarter" instead. Because that's Avery in 2011.