Sean Avery was suspended six-games today by the NHL. I don't want to write a whole thing on Avery, because A) this is a Flyers blog, and he is not and hopefully never will be a Flyer, and B) I pretty much agree with Puck Daddy, so, quoted:
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.
This is what eight games looks like (YouTube), when the Anaheim Ducks' Chris Pronger stomped on Ryan Kesler's leg in March 2008. Whether you think it's warranted or not, it was Pronger's eighth suspension.
And here's what Gary Bettman now believes is what a six-game suspension looks like (YouTube) in his League.
The real beef I have right now is with Brett Hull, and it's not even really hockey related. He made a comment to the media this morning on how he feels "responsible" for bringing Avery to Dallas and how he felt that at the time of the signing, Avery was a necessary risk. Here's the quote, from the dallasnews.com via From The Rink:
"It's hard. ...I thought he was the type of guy our dressing room needed to light a little bit of a fire, get a little bit more emotion on the ice. I think obviously it went a little overboard. For me it's difficult because I feel a responsibility for having Sean here. We're not going to stop taking risks to make our team better because sometimes I think you have to. You look at the Texas Rangers and Josh Hamilton and there's a very good example of how a risk turned out well. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don't and you look forward." -Brett Hull
I'm as big a baseball fan as I am a hockey fan, and as I attended the Home Run Derby in NYC this summer, I was learning about Josh Hamilton for the first time. For those of you who don't know, Hamilton bashed 25 homers in one round on that July night, which absolutely obliterated every record in the book. He had an incredible season with the Texas Rangers, finally living up to the hype that surrounded him as the number one draft pick in 1999.
And for those of you you really don't know Hamilton, he was addicted to drugs as recently as 2005. His promising baseball career was essentially over, but he cleaned up and eventually worked his way back to the Majors. His story is an amazing one, and I completely recommend reading this piece he told to ESPN The Magazine. It's lengthy, but worth it. Here's a small excerpt that captures the voice of it:
And still Katie told me, "You're going to be back playing baseball, because there's a bigger plan for you." I couldn't even look her in the eye. I said something like, "Yeah, yeah, quit talking to me."
She looks pretty smart, doesn't she? I have a mission now. My mission is to be the ray of hope, the guy who stands out there on that beautiful field and owns up to his mistakes and lets people know it's never completely hopeless, no matter how bad it seems at the time. I have a platform and a message, and now I go to bed at night, sober and happy, praying I can be a good messenger. -Josh Hamilton
By the time Hamilton was traded from Cincinnati to Texas prior to thee 2008 season, he has been clean for nearly two seasons. He was among the league leaders in most hitting categories among rookies in 2007. Calling him a risk by that point would've been like calling Mike Richards a risk after an amazing season with the Phantoms in 2004/05.
My point in all this is that in no way, shape, or form should Josh Hamilton be compared to Sean Avery. It's insulting to this man who has already been through so much, and it shows a shortsighted lack of understanding by Hull about Hamilton's situation.
Avery is a punk. Hamilton is not.
PS: Why does a team that just went to the Western Conference Finals need to be taking risks in the offseason, anyway?