This seems to be the topic of conversation for the hockey world today. It even overshadowed the fact the New York Rangers have advanced to the second round with a 4-1 series victory over their counterparts across The George Washington Bridge. The series itself was lacklustre on the Devils’ end, but it was the comments and antics on and off the ice were more prevailent than the actually series itself.
The high emotions and the competitive edge cumulated in last night’s series ending team handshake. New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur did not extend his hand to his adversary, Ranger Sean Avery. Brodeur did not even glance Avery’s way.
All throughout the series, and throughout the regular season, Avery has been in Brodeur’s face, crease, and in his head. Avery did his job and distracted Marty from performing at his best. Now the question is, was it overboard? Fans, columists, and analysts alike all say, “Avery was too much.”
My big concern is, it is playoff hockey. You have to perform to the highest level of your abilities. Although, I personally believe Sean Avery did play to the highest of his abilities, I still do not consider him a highly talented player. He is a pest, and agitator, with a big mouth who had quite of few garbage goals this season padding his stats. Meanwhile, Martin Brodeur did not perform the best of his abilities. He did not play the way Martin Brodeur who won the 2002 Oylmpic Gold in Salt Lake City. He did not play like the Martin Brodeur that won three Stanley Cups. Avery and the New York Rangers won this battle. We are not going to deny that fact.
What I am asking is: Was Marty Brodeur in the right not to shake Sean Avery’s hand? Was Brodeur classless in this act? Or was he justified? Did Avery run him into his net far too many times over the course of the season or the series that Marty felt justified to not respect Avery’s play and his efforts?
If we look at it from Avery’s point of view, he just played hard, did his job, and his team won. If we look at it from Brodeur’s perspective, he felt he was interferred with, badgered, and had too many calls not made in respect to Avery being in his face. It is all about what point of view you share your argument?
If we went strictly on history and reputation around the league, Martin Brodeur, in terms of a hockey player, is a class act. He is a future Hall of Famer, and will soon join the ranks of Roy, Dryden, and Sawchuck in hockey’s pearly gates in Toronto. Martin Brodeur is a franchise player who has won it all. Martin Brodeur is loved by fans, media and peers alike. Martin Brodeur on the ice, and for his organization is a great ambassador of hockey. So why did he not shake Avery’s hand? Would not that be the classy thing to do?
Sean Avery on the other hand, is known to be an agitator, who says what he feels, and does not make any apologies for it. As a Canadian hockey player, he does not give much regard to the Canadian media that gives him oh so much hockey attention, or so he says. Sean Avery is better known for his colourful commentary off the ice and his comments towards his fellow NHLPA members. So did he feel slighted by Marty when Marty did not shake his hand? Sure, wouldn’t you?
I am somewhat torn on this incident. I am a fan of Martin Brodeur as a player. I cannot deny his accolades and his accomplishments. I am a little surprised that someone as calm, cool and collective like Brodeur would have lost his composure to a player like Avery and let him get in his mind. I guess in the heat of the moment, Marty felt justified. In many ways, he is correct. Avery ran him far too often during the series, and had to deal with some very dirty play from Avery. Avery did not deserve Marty’s respect and acknowledgment.
On the other hand, I have to give it to Sean Avery, he played well enough for his team to win. He did play hard and he was aggressive. He did what it took to win. He pushed the envelope in terms of rules and sportsmanship, but he did his job. Avery’s commentary on his opponents’ roster and talent level left much to be desired but he was a factor in the Rangers’ victory over the Devils.
Both men are both in the right to back up their actions and Avery wanted to shake Marty’s hand. Marty thought different. Avery lost me with his comments about how certain members of the Devils do not deserve to be in the NHL and how he felt he was far more talented than many of the players on New Jersey. Sean, I hate to break it to you, but you were not around for the 1994 Stanley Cup win versus Vancouver. Meanwhile, members of that ‘talentless lineup’ have at least a championship ring on their fingers. Also, Mr. Avery, calling a three-time Stanley Cup winning goalie in Martin Brodeur, “Fatso” on national television, does not sit well with many of his fans and his peers. Respect off the ice, is something Marty has earned. Calling him ‘fatso’ does not garner you the respect that you yearn. Although you deny it, we all know you want it. Who would not?
Marty was not only angry at Avery on and off the ice, I am pretty sure Marty was hard on himself because he knew he didn’t play his best hockey. I think Marty can be forgiven for this “classless act”, he is human and he is fallible, just like the rest of us. Maybe when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame, he can invite Sean Avery to the induction ceremony and perhaps can make up for that handshake he missed on April 18, 2008 in Newark, New Jersey.
That’s this edition of A View from Broad…a not too distant perspective.