NHL Wrong to Suspend Avery

The NHL is 100% wrong for suspending Sean Avery over the comments that he made prior to the Dallas-Calgary game on December 2, 2008.

“I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada,” Avery told TSN after asking if he was on camera. “I just want to comment on how it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don’t know what that’s about. Enjoy the game tonight.”

He did not commit slander or libel from a legal perspective. None of Phaneuf, Cuthbert, Komisarek, Rachel Hunter or Jarret Stoll stand to be publicly ridiculed as a result of it, and so they have suffered no injury or damages. Plus, the statement is actually truthful, albeit poorly phrased and delivered and certainly classless.

Was it crude? Yes. Does Avery look like a moron for saying it? Perhaps.

Getting away from the legal system and into NHL rules – does the NHL’s reputation really stand to be injured as a result of his outburst? Absolutely not. If anything, it can help it. ANY press coverage of the NHL is good press coverage. Love him or hate him, Sean Avery is entertainment personified. He’s a character with a charisma (whether you view it as funny or enraging) that transcends the sport.

You know what? Avery’s right about Iginla in a sense. Iginla is a wonderfully talented hockey player – a star – yet, beyond the rink, there is nothing exciting about him (at least nothing that Iginla has ever chosen to share with the general public). But being a wonderfully talented hockey player and having either a boring or simply a very closely guarded, private personality does not sell the game. Characters sell the game. And Avery is character #1 in the NHL. The NHL needs more characters, both beloved and reviled, not fewer of them.

The fact that he made a public comment disparaging someone does not inherently injure the NHL or the sport of hockey. He committed no legal tort. He has a right to freedom of speech, provided that he does not incite others to violence (which he did not do).

If anything, he should challenge the suspension, hold a press conference, speak his mind, repeat the comments even, and then sue the NHL. I’d take that case as his attorney in a New York minute.

Expressing an opinion that is not in and of itself a legal tort towards another, and is not related to the game of hockey, and is actually truthful, cannot logically be considered to be damaging to the NHL.

The clown in this case is actually Gary Bettman, and his unbelievably harsh (and, in my legal opinion, legally unsupportable) action against Avery for comments that – while crude – were harmless is more damaging and more of an embarrassment to the NHL than any comment Avery made.

Mark my words, the NHL will be a better league when Bettman is gone. Don’t tell me the club owners demanded that Bettman take this action today. This is Bettman’s idiocy and misstep, all on his own.

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3 Responses to “NHL Wrong to Suspend Avery”

  1. Michelle Kenneth
    December 4, 2008 at 9:12 am #

    I’m going to point out something that you may be overlooking. First of all, the NHL is a business, so try and look at this from a business perspective.

    If you had an employee that went before the press and made the comment that Avery made, calling his ex-girlfriends “sloppy seconds” and how his work colleagues are dating them, wouldn’t you have found that unprofessional and unethical?

    In every other workplace in the world, if an employee were to make public comments such as those Avery had made, that employee would immediately be reprimanded and possibly fired. Why? Because that individual worked within his own self-interest and not that of the company.

    Keeping that in mind, do you understand Mr. Bettman’s reasonings on why he made the decision he made?

    You also need to keep in mind that Avery’s rap sheet has been building up over the years. This is not his first offense.

    Avery also breached his contract:

    The NHL’s Standard Players’ Contract (which Avery signed) states on page 2, article 2 (e), “to conduct himself on and off the rink according to the highest standard of honesty, morality, fair play and sportsmanship, and to refrain from conduct detrimental to the best interest of the Club, the League or professional hockey.”

    Avery was serving his best interests when he made the comment, not that of the team or the NHL.

  2. fjmarkowitz
    December 5, 2008 at 7:13 pm #

    I agree with Ms. Kenneth – it’s a business plain and simple – this is not about being PC or anything like that – its about appearances and professionalism. When Sean played for the Rangers I loudly cheered him as a Rangers fan; but if he were on the Rangers and he made those remarks I would hope that the Rangers front desk would have followed the Stars leadership: no support, your teammates are quiet. “Grow up, you’re a millionaire for crying out loud. Don’t hurt my business.”

  3. jr777777
    December 8, 2008 at 7:23 am #

    Marc, If I wanted to watch a bunch of self-centered, idiotic thugs, I wouldn’t have to wish/hope/wait for a sports league to remake itself like you seem to want the NHL to. We already have a couple of those leagues around. They’re called the NFL & NBA.

    I don’t need a Avery-like character to watch. We already have someone who is, as you put it, “entertainment personified.” How about Terrell Owens or Plaxico Burress? Or Stephon Marbury and Ron Artest? Just the people I want my kids to emulate.

    Hats off to the NHL for trying to keep the NHL something I can be happy to let my kids watch.