NHL commissioner Gary Bettman harshly criticized Sean Avery on Tuesday, calling the combative forward’s crude remark about ex-girlfriends dating other ice hockey players offensive and disgusting.
Avery was only 23 games into a US$15.5 million, four-year deal with the Dallas Stars when Bettman suspended him for the Dec. 2 remark. He was eligible to return from his six-game ban on Sunday, but the Stars instead announced Avery would not rejoin the team — ever.
Avery’s controversial remarks were directed at Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who is dating Avery’s ex-girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert, and Los Angeles Kings forward Jarret Stoll, who is dating another of Avery’s ex-girlfriends, Rachel Hunter.
“I am going to say one thing. I am really happy to be back in Calgary,” Avery said. “I love Canada. I just want to comment on how, it has become a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds.”
Speaking to a luncheon crowd, Bettman said Avery’s remark offended him as a parent.
“To be perfectly honest I wouldn’t want to have to explain to my 12-year-old daughter what he said,” the commissioner said.
Bettman said he hasn’t spoken to the Stars but said they’ve handled the situation professionally, given the team has continued to pay Avery’s salary while it explores other options.
When he was suspended, Avery told the Stars he needed help dealing with anger issues. Co-general manager Brett Hull said on Sunday that Avery was in a 10-day, voluntary program that could be extended if counselors determine he needs a longer stay.
Avery, a two-time league leader in penalty minutes, prides himself on doing and saying things to irritate his foes. He savors his reputation as the NHL’s most-hated player and contrasts it with a well-publicized interest in fashion. He’s dated actresses, been written up in People magazine and spent this summer as an intern for Vogue magazine. The fact he has a publicist makes him unique among NHL players.
Although Avery had been fined and NHL rules were changed because of his antics, he’d never been suspended by the league until this month, when Bettman punished him only hours after his now-infamous line.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER