After a tumultuous season , it appears that Sean Avery will be heading into permanent unrestricted free agency.
A guest on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” online After Show last night, Avery declared that he was officially retired and that he threw his skates into the Hudson. Today Avery told Larry Brooks of The New York Post that it wasn’t a joke; that he would be retiring at the end of the season.
Avery came to the flailing Rangers in 2007 carrying with him a (deserved) reputation, notorious for his antics as an agitator. It didn’t take long for him to become one of the more popular Blueshirts, driving superstar Ilya Kovalchuk to distraction in a first-round playoff sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2007. He followed that up in the 2008 playoffs, taking his superpest status to a whole new level when he screened New Jersey Devils’ goaltender Martin Brodeur, using his hands and stick while the Rangers were on a power play, prompting the NHL on-the-fly to amend the unsportsmanlike conduct rule to include Avery’s face guarding method. It also gave rise to Brodeur’s refusal to shake Avery’s hand at the end of the Rangers’ 4-1 quarterfinals series victory and Avery dubbing Brodeur “Fatso” in a postgame interview when asked about the non-handshaking incident.
The honeymoon appeared to be over when Avery became an unrestricted free agent that summer and the Dallas Stars signed him to a 4-year, $15.5 million contract. As popular as Avery was with the fans, the Rangers were certainly right to not offer him something comparable. Twenty-three games into his stint in the Lone Star State, Avery called over media in Calgary and uttered the two words that would eventually lead to a suspension (6 by the NHL but indefinite by the Stars), NHL-mandated anger management classes and a second stint on Broadway.
Avery though never quite was able to fully recapture the magic of his first tenure with the Rangers. Twelve days after Tom Renney was let go and John Tortorella was hired as his replacement, Avery was back in a Rangers’ uniform. He never found his comfort zone underneath the coach who had expressed disdain for him while he was a commentator on TSN – trying, and seemingly failing, to walk that edge of where being an effective irritant ended and an on-ice detriment began.
After a forgettable 2010-11, the writing was on the wall at the start of this season when he was sent down to the AHL. He was called up for 15 games when injuries necessitated someone be called up to fill a roster spot. It all unraveled after that second demotion on December 30th. He suited up for the Whale for what would turn out to be the final time on January 27th and capped off by his omission on the clear day roster of the Connecticut Whale of the AHL. He was told by the organization to not even bother showing up for practice.
Avery’s interests away from the rink have been well-documented – interning at Vogue, being a partner in two restaurants in Manhattan, modeling for Gap and Hickey Friedman just to name a few – and he’ll undoubtedly have plenty on his plate to keep him occupied in his post-hockey life. If he truly is done with hockey at 31, it brings to a close of one of the more colorful (and more hated, for that matter) characters of the NHL.
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About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927