The Rangers are going to get hurt by Sean Avery this year, not from his antics on or off the ice, but by his previous antics. Sure, there are going to be plenty of times that he takes penalties trying to get under the skin of the opposing team, but there will be plenty more calls comparable to what we saw in the preseason game against New Jersey. To quickly jog everyone’s memory, Avery collided with goalie Yann Danis, while he was being defended by defenseman Mike Mottau (I believe it was Mottau), and proceeded to get punched in the face by Mottau. The result of the play was a double minor for Avery, and no penalties for the Devils.
There were three things wrong with this play, but only one was a blatant bias against Avery. We have seen that any contact with the goalie, accidental or not, will earn you a penalty (Ryan Callahan bumped Tuuka Rask while being defended and was called for interference). So based on the consistency there, and only based on the consistency of the call, the penalty for goalie interference on Avery was the right call. You can argue that the ref didn’t see Mottau deliberately punching Avery in the face, and that’s a valid argument. If the ref doesn’t see it, you can’t call it (see: Betts, Blair). But then to slap on the two minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty is just throwing salt in the wound. I can understand one of these scenarios happening to any player in any game, that’s hockey. But to have all three happen to the same player on the same play just screams bias.
Sean Avery, rightfully so, has earned himself a reputation as a pest. But a reputation does not give the zebras an excuse to call more penalties on the winger. There were many times throughout the season last year, after the Rangers re-acquired Avery, that he was the victim of phantom calls. All a goalie needs to do is flop when Avery is near, and the penalty will be called. It doesn’t matter if Avery was tripped and subsequently slid into the net, Avery will get an interference penalty. It’s the unfortunate truth of the matter.
His reputation also does not give them an excuse to just look the other way when opposing players try to mug him at gunpoint on the ice. I, nor does any Ranger fan, know what it takes for Sean Avery to draw a penalty. Does someone need to swing a stick at him? What about attempted gang-rape at center ice? Sure, there’s a bit of an exaggeration there, but we know it’s not that far off. Last season, players were allowed to get piggy back rides from Avery without a whistle being blown, and that’s with very little exaggeration.
The fact here is that Sean Avery’s reputation is going to cost the Rangers some penalties. In a game where one powerplay can cost a team the game, reputation penalties are extremely costly, and just unfair. Let the man play, and call the real penalties, the ones where he trips someone, or hooks someone, or jumps off the bench too early. What the NHL is allowing to happen in the treatment of Sean Avery is not only unfair, but unprofessional. League officials (meaning Gary Bettman and his ilk) are looking the other way when it comes to the unfair treatment of Sean Avery, and it needs to stop. This is going to cost the Rangers games.