Thursday, December 4, 2008
Tippett, frustrated by Avery's antics, expresses his doubts
ESPN.com news services
Sean Avery may have more to deal with than just a possible suspension from the NHL.
He might be persona non grata with his own team, as well.
Thursday morning, Avery arrived at the NHL offices in Manhattan for his noon hearing with commissioner Gary Bettman, called because of his "inappropriate" comments Tuesday in Calgary, which resulted in an indefinite suspension.
The meeting ended at about 1:30 p.m. ET. Dallas Stars co-general manager Brett Hull, who attended the meeting, said a decision on Avery might come Thursday afternoon or Friday.
But before the meeting even took place, Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippett, in unusually candid remarks for a coach, addressed the situation Wednesday prior to the Stars' game against the Oilers in Edmonton.
Avery got himself in trouble Tuesday when he, while speaking to reporters, used a crude
expression to describe former girlfriends now dating other hockey
players. Hours later, Bettman suspended
him indefinitely for making "inappropriate public comments, not
pertaining to the game."
"From a coach's standpoint, I try to build a team that has an atmosphere where players care about each other and play with each other and play with continuity, and I find it hard to believe that Sean could come back in that dressing room and we could find that continuity again," Tippett said.
Sean Avery's high-fashion outfit held up through a three-hour hearing with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
Tippett was particularly incensed by the fact that he had spent some time Tuesday in Calgary defending Avery in front of the Canadian media, only to turn around and hear Avery say: "I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada ... I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight."
Avery was referring to his ex-girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert, who is currently dating Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
"It's frustrating for me to go out and defend the guy," Tippett said. "It's disappointing, because in the morning with all the stuff going on in the media, I approached Sean and asked him if he was going to talk to media; he told me, no. He talked to our PR people and he told them, no, he wasn't going to talk to the media ... and to have a calculated response like that ... it was a calculated statement for what I feel was personal gain."
Avery issued an apology Wednesday.
"I would like to sincerely apologize for my off-color remarks to the press yesterday from Calgary. I should not have made those comments and I recognize that they were inappropriate. It was a bad attempt to build excitement for the game, but I am now acutely aware of how hurtful my actions were. I caused unnecessary embarrassment to my peers as well as people I have been close with in the past.
"I apologize for offending the great fans of the NHL, the commissioner, my teammates, my coaching staff and the Dallas Stars management and ownership," the statement continued. "As many of you know, I like to mix it up on and off the ice from time to time, but understand that this time I took it too far."
But even the delivery of the apology might be evidence of how much the Dallas organization would like to distance itself from Avery. According to a report on TSN of Canada, his personal publicist contacted the Stars about Avery issuing a formal apology, to be released by the team.
According to TSN, the Stars refused.
Avery's apology was later issued on its own, and first obtained by the Sporting News Web site.
The Stars' options might be limited, and they must wait for the NHL to hand down its decision, anyway, before making any moves. The controversial, self-styled "pest" signed a guaranteed, four-year, $15.5 million contract in the offseason. One option is to send Avery to the AHL or send him home, but the team would still have to pay him.
Avery's crass remark brought additional stress to a team already besieged by injuries and a poor showing this season (9-12-4, tied for last place in the Western Conference).
Asked if he did not want Avery on the team, Tippett said: "My job is to build the best team possible. I don't know if we can build the best team possible with Sean coming back."
Also at Thursday's hearing were NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly; league disciplinarian Colin Campbell; Avery's agent, Pat Morris, and a NHLPA representative.
"Both sides had their say, and I think that's fair," Hull said to the Dallas Morning News. "Sean had his agent and a player's rep guy and we are here in support of him, and the league obviously had its people and its points to make. It was an open forum."
Hull said Avery was remorseful during the hearing.
"Well, I certainly have no quotes for you; but he was remorseful in what he did and that's about all you can do," Hull said, according to NHL.com.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.