Sean Avery, indefinite suspensions and NHL gullibility

The NHL has had its say, Tom Hicks agreed and now it's Dallas Stars Coach Dave Tippett addressing the indefinite suspension of Sean Avery for saying that other NHL players have had sexual intercourse with women he used to date.

From the coach of the last-place Stars:

"It's something that the league has taken action on and our owner has supported it. I think everyone in our room believes there is an integrity that has to go into the game -- a respect for the game and a respect for your opponents, and Sean crossed that line."

Stars GM Brett Hull's comments on the matter are here.

In case you're wondering what crossing the lines of respect and integrity looks like, here's Avery's "press conference" today in Calgary:

Did you crack a smile? Did you roll your eyes? Did you see anything that would warrant swift punishment from the National Hockey League?

I'd say the NHL couldn't embarrass itself any further, but I haven't seen what the "definite" suspension of Avery will look like.

If there's any defending Gary Bettman's decision to suspend Avery before tonight's game at the Calgary Flames, it's for the sake of safety. There was every chance that Dion Phaneuf was going to knock Avery into British Columbia. There was every chance that a Stars player may have paid a price for Avery's indignation, both in his "sloppy seconds" crack and his previous comments about Jarome Iginla.

From a player safety perspective, the NHL has the high ground.

But in the past, when situations threatened to get out of hand between teams with bad blood, the League would opt for back-channel threats of zero tolerance. Think back to huge brawls like Buffalo and Ottawa; Round 2 is always a letdown, because it was made clear before the game that the silly stuff would be met with a swift kick to the wallet.

And that's where the NHL looks absolutely foolish today. The League suspending Avery for opening his yap and making a frat boy joke elevates his antics back to legendary status. This is the Avery Rule all over again; Avery looks irresponsible but mischievous, and the League looks like it's making special considerations because the class clown acted up. Give him 10 games, give him 30; he wins again.

Seriously, if the NHL were half as vigilant on hits to the head as they are for Sean Avery's nonsense, Simon Gagne might not hear church bells every time he closes his eyes.

As The Forechecker writes:

If Avery gets more than a single game suspension out of this, the NHLPA should call the league out on the carpet for prioritizing PR above player safety.

If Gary Bettman was as smart as he thinks he is, he would have picked up the phone to Tom Hicks and demanded the Stars suspend Avery. Make it a team issue rather than a League issue. Turn Avery back into a locker-room cancer instead of clouding the issue by elevating him into a free-speech martyr.

In the end, suspending Avery proves Avery correct that this League is disinterested in creating a compelling product to which fans want to pay attention.

Once again, Sean Avery is the biggest story in sports tonight. Once again, the NHL was squandered the moment. As Tapeleg put it: "NHL Renders Flames - Stars Unwatchable by Suspending Avery."

Two final thoughts: If Avery had said the "sloppy seconds" line after a game in the locker room, the NHL would have condemned it but there'd be no suspension. His grandstanding is his sin.

We know this because Ian White of the Toronto Maple Leafs wasn't suspended after telling the media that Ilya Kovalchuk will "get what's coming to him" the next time they meet.

I guess Avery's joke is more offensive than the threat of continued violence. Maybe if White has added, "And the second time, it'll get reeeeeeeeeeal sloppy."

Second ... is anyone else thinking there's way, way more to this than we know about? Avery's smirking "press conference" certainly seemed like a counterpunch, didn't it?

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