Love It Or Hate It...The Avery Rule
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent
This just in: acting like an asshat now grounds for a penalty in the NHL.
Sunday night the obnoxious and infantile antics of New York Rangers forward Sean Avery caused the on-the-fly creation of a new NHL rule.
During Game 2 of their first round playoff series, Avery set about screening Devils goalie Martin Brodeur in a most unusual way. While his teammates battled for possession and took shots on goal, Avery planted himself directly in front of the goalie and shimmied back and forth, waving his stick in Brodeur's face in a move reminiscent of the African Anteater Ritual.
In order to grasp the absurdity of Avery's machinations, you really have to see the clip. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb4WaZMVtyE&eurl=http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/hockey/comments/avery_fronts_brodeur/)
Not only did Brodeur try to shove Avery away throughout the play, but the refs also gave him a warning. In fact, even his own teammate, Chris Drury, tried to get him to lower his stick. While screening the goalie in hockey is common practice, doing so with one's back to the puck is not. It goes against everything a player is taught to turn his back on the action, especially in the crease, where he might miss out on the opportunity for a deflection or a score off a rebound.
While the Rangers didn't score during Avery's dancing on ice routine, Avery himself put in a goal just a few minutes later. The Devils went on to win the game, but plenty of players and coaches around the league took exception to Avery's agitating.
Devils coach Brent Sutter said, "It's definitely not going to be accepted in this league. That's something you see in a bush league."
Devils forward John Madden added: "It was childish. We are trying to sell this game and you see stuff like that going on. I don't agree with it at all."
Even teammates of Avery took offense. Rangers backup goalie Steve Valiquette said: "It's not in the spirit of the game. It worked and it's effective, but it's a gentleman's game, much like golf. I wouldn't have been happy if it had happened to me. I probably would have reacted a little differently. Sean would have been picking his teeth up off the ice if it was me."
The reigning NHL MVP, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, chimed in, noting: "I don't think you can do that, something should be called on something like that."
Well from now on, something will be.
Monday, just one day after Avery's antics, and right smack in the middle of the 2008 playoffs, the NHL released a brand new interpretation of the rules to be put into place immediately.
Colin Campbell, the league's senior executive vice president and director of hockey operations, said in a statement, "An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."
The addendum will forever be known as "The Avery Rule."
Avery's been known throughout the league for years for his unsportsmanlike behavior. In fact, he was voted the "Dirtiest Player in the NHL" in a Players Poll posted on SI.com just six days ago. The timing is glorious.
The negative response to Avery's tactics Sunday is similar to that which plagued Alex Rodriguez during a Yankees/Blue Jays game last year. A-Rod was heavily criticized after shouting at Toronto third baseman Howie Clark while he tried to catch a pop-up. A-Rod didn't violate anything in the rulebook, but many believed his tactics to be immature and underhanded.
For the layman, Avery and A-Rod's juvenile behaviors equate to heckling your golf buddy during a big putt or charging the net just before your opponent's serve in a tennis match. Neither act is against the rules of the game, but if you have to stoop that low to win, the victory is pretty hollow.
Some believe Avery was just doing whatever it takes to win. The fact that players and commentators alike had never seen anything like Sunday night's display does point to a sort of creativity and ingenuity on the part of the Rangers forward. Even Brodeur had to admit the play nearly worked.
"It was a great play," Brodeur said. "I couldn't see anything. It was just luck that both their shots went wide."
So, do you Love or Hate Avery's unusual tactics? Is he creative or childish? And is it right for the NHL to alter the rules right in the middle of the playoffs?
And what about Avery's mohawk and glasses look?
And do you Love or Hate the fact that this guy has dated babes like Elisha Culbert and Rachel Hunter as well?