December 04, 2008
After writing about it, Eric McErlain of NHL FanHouse discovered the fan's identity: Sandie Griffith, nearing 60 years old and a season-ticket holder for the Nashville Predators since Day One. According to McErlain, Griffith and her family have been taunting Avery since his days with the Los Angeles Kings -- even blowing up a newspaper photos into posters and taunting him as one who plays like a "turtle."
As Avery skated to the penalty box, Griffith was waiting for him. "He came up behind Dan Hamhuis and cross-checked him, and I went to the box," said Griffith. That's when she asked him, "aren't you going to turtle up?"
Griffith insisted to me that while she taunted Avery, she never used foul language. So what was Avery's response? According to Griffith, Avery said, "You're nothing but an old [expletive] [expletive] I wouldn't even [expletive] in your face." (Ed. Note: Head to FanHouse to read the line with asterisks if you don't get the picture.) After which he sprayed her with his water bottle. It was after that the refs assessed Avery a second game misconduct, and Griffith is pretty much convinced Avery's reaction to the confrontation with her was the reason.
"I'm an old hockey fan, I can accept foul language, that's not the problem. But this was beyond anything that I can even imagine," Griffith said.
McErlain attempted to get reactions from the Stars, Avery's reps and the NHL. He managed a word from John Dellapina, the League's Director of Media Relations, who said in reference to Avery's suspension, "In any matter such as this, the totality of the actions throughout the player's career is taken into account."
It's a good piece of reporting, but ultimately it's going to be read one of two ways.
It could be another piece of supporting evidence for those who want to create a pattern of misogyny or general cruelty for Avery. Obviously, this isn't a story if this isn't a woman on the receiving end of his rapier wit. If you believe "sloppy seconds" was a slur against Elisha Cuthbert and not a knock on her paramours, they you're probably enraged after reading this.
Or, it's an example of a fan that instigated a confrontation and elicited the reaction she was looking for -- even if it was over the top. We still don't know what triggered Avery's "press conference" the other day; clearly, the guy has one hell of a rhetorical counterpunch.
But again, we come back to the basic point of this debate: Should the NHL throw the book at someone for this type of behavior? Because say what you will about Avery, he hasn't done anything close to the NHL vs. fan incidents we chronicled recently.
And honestly: Is Sean Avery the first hockey player to ever call a fan an "old [expletive] [expletive] I wouldn't even [expletive] in your face?" OK, maybe with that expert phrasing.