League Suspension of Avery Only Makes Matters Worse
Inside the blogosphere, as you might suspect, there are many differing opinions on the suspension. Some agree with it, calling the comments out of line and others are firmly entrenched on the other side of the fence. Either way, I think it's clear that yet again Sean Avery has gotten the NHL in the headlines for all the wrong reasons and the NHL is only helping him spread the word.
Let's face the facts. This story was going to set the hockey world on fire the moments those words left Avery's lips. That was the point of no return. What the NHL did was magnify the negative press. They made this look like the No Fun League, again, a place in which personality is dishonorable. In this case, the comments are in bad taste. There's no doubt about that. But this is Sean Avery and he is going to have his fun. Ignoring this may have even swept it under the rug a little, but a suspension from the league is a black and white description of league policy. And league policy is not something that this matter needed.
Without Bettman stepping in, this may have been viewed as more of the same from Avery.
"Oh, it's just Avery being Avery."
Now it's a league matter and Avery is on notice and everyone assumes the worst.
"The league stepped in to stop a potential bloodbath, scare players out of having personalities and save Avery from himself."
To be fair, this was probably going to be a big topic of conversation before the suspension. This post makes four of the last five here at FanHouse Avery-related. That's more coverage than we give just about anything not related to the All Star Game or playoffs! But it was only after the suspension that Deadspin was on it -- and quicker than any hockey story they've mentioned this year might I add. And, of all places, this ended up on the front page of TMZ following the suspension announcement. Do I need to go on?
My point is, the NHL is already in the headlines thanks to Avery's jabs at Cuthbert and Phaneuf. Suspending him isn't going to take away the TMZ post or the blogosphere raging with debate about Avery. It also isn't going to fan the flames. Avery already accomplished what he set out to do -- piss off Phaneuf and give the media their story. Suspending him isn't going to make this any worse for us in the media. Heck, now we've got more to do.
"There's a suspension to discuss! Morning headlines written for us!"
The main problem is that this became a league matter in the first place. A stern phone call to the Dallas Stars was all that needed to happen. Suspend Avery or else. Tom Hicks said he would have. Are we supposed to believe him not a man of his word? That would have meant he was out of line with team policy. It's a scolding from Mom. That's a much different statement than the league handing down an interpretation of law.
The NHL has historically taken the wrong position on important matters. They have also historically taken no or a weak position on important matters (see: hits to the head). Now their critics get to come out and remind them that this may be another example.
The Calgary Flames and Dion Phaneuf aren't going to forget about this any time soon. Sure, less blood was spilled tonight thanks to the suspension, but these teams will meet again in February. There was no putting out this fire as soon as the words left Avery's lips, but there could have been some damage control -- not kerosene.