Sean Avery was the type of hockey player who had more depth to him. You could tell he played hockey and enjoyed a lot of the elements the sport brought, but he never truly 100 percent bought into the culture.
Avery tried to explain why in his post on Players’ Tribune where he discusses his decision to retire in 2012 – at the age of 32 – and a lot of other elements of his career that just seemed off.
I decided to retire in 2012 because the game was no longer fun for me. Sure, I loved being on the ice, making a great play, putting the puck in the net — and winning. I did not love the abuse I got from my coach. I did not love sitting around in the locker room talking about cars and wives and girlfriends — or about hiding your girlfriend from your wife. And difficult though this may be for fans to understand, some nights, I did not love all the thumping music and swirling lights announcing “The New York Rangers!” as we skated out to play Game X in our 82-game season. Some nights, you just can’t find that extra gear no matter how loud the arena is.
He also said he purposely made himself a character by being 'tough' and 'ornery' and that he "needed people to hate me" just so he could keep his job and stay motivated.
Interesting thought-provoking stuff from a guy who said then-Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf was with Avery’s ‘sloppy seconds’ meaning ex-girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert, now Phaneuf's wife.
That isn’t specifically addressed.
What is addressed is the Martin Brodeur screening situation in the 2008 playoffs. He doesn’t apologize – and really he has no need to. But the aftermath is startling for a guy who seemed to feed off hatred thrown his way.
I woke up the next day to discover that I was being torn apart by every single person in the hockey world. As much as I played a great game and even scored a goal on Brodeur, the harsh criticism eats at you. And the desire to have it stop begins to accumulate. So if you don’t wake up on top of the world after playing a great game, then you know the clock is running out.
Avery brings up his summer internship at Vogue in 2008, but he credits it with giving him valuable work experience for the real world. He says his first bar, opened in 2009, also gave him a taste of how to operate in life after hockey.
People may scoff at a line like this from the story:
“When I did go on vacation, I’d fly in economy class to harden myself for the real world.”
But in many ways, it’s a smart idea by Avery. Playing in the NHL is a fleeting moment in one’s life. The earning potential of an NHL player does not last forever. There’s an adjustment to the real world that needs to take place, and something as simple as flying coach is important – in my time as a beat writer, so many players were astounded at what it was like for me to fly coach around the country and not on a charter.
It’s the way most of the world works.
Also there are a few other tidbits in this piece that resonate.
Avery notes that for most players, formal education ended at 16 – which is when junior hockey truly ramps up. There’s always a lot of talk in the United States about when a player should be allowed to enter pro sports. In hockey it sort of happens at a much younger age with the junior system.
He advocates education. He advocates getting a regular job that can give you any kind of life skills outside of hockey – even something like managing a restaurant to get you out of the locker room culture.
According to Hamptons Magazine, Avery recently started: "Avery/Gallanti Design, which remodels then resells moderately priced East End homes."
Whether you believe Avery in this piece, he comes across as an ‘outside-the-box’ thinker in this story, which is refreshing in a game that’s still powered by an ‘old boys’ ‘tough guy’ network.
He still has his moments, such as his Dancing With The Stars jousting with Brodeur. That does give you cause for pause as to Avery’s sincerity with the piece.
There has been a lot of talk recently about player transition to the real world and Daniel Carcillo’s plea for more mental health tools for players to help with NHL retirement.
Avery’s story isn’t a ‘how-to’ but more man’s story in his own words on why he was who he was, and his entrance into non-hockey life.
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