Hey there, all. I’m Act, and I’ll be typing mercilessly about hockey (mostly) and baseball (when the hockey season ends; hockey players tend to be better looking). I back the Rangers and Mets respectively, but above all am a fan of both sports. And sabermetrics. I love my statistics.
I’m also one-half of your Friday posting team.
Anyway, a time-honored NHL tradition is that after every playoff series, no matter how brutal or long, the players put aside their grudges and adrenaline, and line up on the rink and shake each other’s hands. Usually, players who have played together before will embrace. The whole thing is really very nice, and what sportsmanship is all about.
(Somewhere on the internet there is a picture of Henrik Lundqvist and Jaromir Jagr after Sweden beat the Czech Republic in Turino looking like they’re about to kiss during the handshake. I lament that I cannot find it. But imagine it here.)
Though, apparently, this doesn’t apply if you’re Martin Brodeur.
The antics between Avery and Brodeur have been no secret during this series (and my opinion on the Avery Rule is a whole other article), and date back to last year when Brodeur came out of the crease, shoved Avery, so Avery whirled around and punched him. Both players were penalized, and Avery made it his mission to annoy the living hell out of Broduer.
Avery is an annoying player, much in the same vein of Donald Brashear, Jarkko Ruutu, Darius Kasparaitis, and even the Devils’ own David Clarkson. He’s never been a headhunter, but always was, frankly, an asshole. You love him if he’s on your team, and if he’s on the other team you despise him.
He does have a tendency to get in teams’ heads, though, and that’s what he did in the Rangers-Devils series. The Devils became so concerned with Sean Avery and company rushing Brodeur (as Renney said, “Both teams play hard. The net is the end point. What are we supposed to do, just stand off to the side and throw pucks at him? It’s not the way the game’s played. Both teams and 16 teams are doing the same thing.”) that winning the series seemed to become almost secondary. Brodeur wanted so badly to goad the refs into interference calls that he occasionally seemed to have forgotten to goaltend. To be sure, the goal that sealed the Devils elimination happened because Johnny Oduya was so concerned with wrestling Avery that he didn’t notice the puck between his legs. Gomez did, took it, and scored. What Avery does may foster hate, but it works.
Yet, even Avery knows not to snub one of the NHL’s traditions. He shook Clarkson’s hand, though he later told MSG’s John Giannone that Clarkson wasn’t actually a very good player. He’s not exactly the class of the NHL, but he works so well because he’s selective with his venom.
Brodeur has always been a bit dramatic, and coach Sutter has always been a hothead, but honestly, the Devils front office should be ashamed of their team’s behavior in this series. Between Sutter’s temper tantrum in Game 2 in which he broke a stick and threw it on to the ice after a non-call (the only explanation for why he wasn’t penalized was that the ref knew he blew the call, and even this isn’t a great excuse), Brodeur’s throwing himself on the ground after getting clipped outside the crease by Jagr on a Ranger’s power play just so he could stop play during a long possession, and Brodeur’s final refusal to acknowledge Avery even when Avery was obviously willing to shake hands with him, the Devils came out looking childish.
And really, all Brodeur did was turn himself into the biggest of hypocrites. He spent a series deriding Avery for unsportsmanlike conduct to a point that Colin Campbell changed the conduct rule, and then lowered himself to something not even Avery would do to prove his point. In a fit of either egomania, immaturity, or both, Brodeur just couldn’t accept that Avery had his number.
“Everyone talks about how much class I don’t have,” Avery said, his first comments to the press the entire series. “Well it’s the end of the series and men go to war against each other. I guess he forgot to shake my hand. I don’t know if anyone saw that. Of course I was going to shake his hand.”
“I just shook everybody’s hand but one,” said Brodeur.
Things aren’t going well when Sean Avery can call you classless and be completely and utterly correct.
(I swear, not all of my posts will be so serious.)