"Enough is enough. He's embarrassed himself, he's embarrassed the organization, and he’s embarrassed the league and he's embarrassed his teammates, who have to look out for him. Send him home. He doesn't belong in the NHL."
Those were the comments made by TSN analyst John Tortorella about Dallas Stars forward Sean Avery back in December.
On February 24th the Rangers hired Tortorella to replace fired head coach Tom Renney. A week later, on March 3rd, the Rangers claimed Sean Avery off of re-entry waivers from the Stars. Tortorella was now going to have to coach Sean Avery. Being in New York it was impossible to not hear everyone in the media bringing up the comments made by Tortorella and questioning how this relationship is going to turn out. So how has John Tortorella now flip flopped and has come and said, "I don't think Sean is being treated fairly," (by the league). What has happened to make Tortorella change his mind about a man that just a few months ago he said should be out of the league?
The answer is actually very simple; Tortorella did something that none of the rest of the media has decided to do. He watched Sean play! Tortorella knew that when he was hired to coach the Rangers that the Rangers would be acquiring Avery, and that he would have to be played. Tortorella simply said, he’ll earn every minute he gets, if he’s not playing the team’s game, he won’t play. Avery saw limited time in his first couple games, but guess what, Tortorella saw him for what he really is, a pretty good hockey player. Avery has been moved up the Rangers top line and has re-energized the team. So Tortorella is right when he now calls out the league for treating Avery unfairly.
A big example of this was in last Monday nights game against the Devils. The Rangers had a 3-0 lead and Avery got into a little push and shove match with David Clarkson. Clarkson dropped his gloves and grabbed Avery. Avery said he didn’t want to fight and even told the referee to break up the fight because he didn’t want to fight. The ref did nothing, finally Avery dropped his right glove, and although there were many clear chances for him to punch Clarkson in the head, he never did, he never threw any punch at all. Clarkson then threw Avery onto the ice, Avery went down head first, the whistles blew and the linesman moved in to separate the two but Clarkson picked Avery back up and threw him head first back onto the ice again. This was outrageous and incredibly dangerous. When they got back from commercial break we discovered that Avery received a 2 minute roughing penalty for dropping his glove, and Clarkson got two double minors and a 10 minute misconduct. This was ridiculous. I personally believe that no one else would have gotten the two minutes for dropping one glove but I can understand it. What Clarkson did was stupid and dangerous. Had he thrown any other player in the NHL onto the ice twice when the player was not fighting back, not only would he be thrown out of the game, he would have been suspended too. That is treating Avery unfairly.
Sean Avery is not a dirty player, he gets treated like a dirty player but something that never gets mentioned is he plays within the rules. Many people like to bring up the Sean Avery rule where during last seasons playoffs he faced Martin Broduer and waved his stick at him, they use that as their example on how Avery is a dirty player. Two things about that, one: it’s now called the “Sean Avery rule” because they put it in place for what he did, meaning it wasn’t there when he did it. He didn’t do anything wrong, he just did something different. Two: He was told by the ref, and by Chris Drury to cut it out, so what did he do? The Devils cleared the puck and when the Rangers brought it back into the zone Avery went right back to where he was standing, only this time he faced the action and about 4 seconds later he scored a goal. He had completely taken Broduers head out of the game.
Many people look at him like he’s terrible for the game; the truth is the guy just plays at an extreme level. He skates hard, he hits people, he never backs away from getting hit and he does what he can to help his team win. Avery has 10 points in his first 13 games with the Rangers this year; you don’t get that unless you’re a good hockey player. So it’s not crazy that John Tortorella has flipped his opinions of Avery and now has him on his top line. Watch Avery play, you’ll see he’s a tremendous difference maker on the ice and a hell of a hockey player. Unfortunately the only things you’ll hear about him from the media are all the shenanigans that he’s pulling.