Would you like to understand why Sean Avery’s “sloppy seconds” performance art was worth an indefinite suspension? There are plenty of factors within the media’s reaction. (The false dichotomy with Colin Campbell’s Wheel O’ Suspensions is a popular one. So is the Pac-Man Jones factor.)
The fact that there’s something for the media to react to in the first place is the real reason Avery’s statement is suspension-worthy.
If there was no such thing as bad publicity, the Jim Cohens of the sports world wouldn’t have to work so hard to manufacture it for the NHL. So when the real thing comes along (for example, a mouthy winger who crosses the line by making misogynistic statements about an opposing player’s girlfriend), it’s like giving the Hockey Haters Club a freebie. All of the spleen-venting, none of the prep work.
The moment Avery opened his mouth, he put Gary Bettman in a no-win situation. You’ve seen the reaction to his suspension. Now imagine how much damage control Bettman would have to do if Avery had played last night, and Dion Phaneuf and friends turned the game into a bloodbath. Stars owner Tom Hicks has publicly stated that the team would have suspended him anyway, so that would have been avoided regardless of the League’s actions.
In the end, I’ll take Bettman’s side on this one. Avery’s behavior was repulsive and dishonorable. For as violent as this game can be at times, it still sets a higher bar for off-ice conduct than other sports leagues, and Sean Avery fell far below that bar yesterday.