The NHL has seen its fair share of colorful characters over the years, but none quite like Sean Avery. From 2001 to 2012, Avery made a name for himself as the premier agitator in the league.
While his stats might not be the most impressive, with 90 goals, 157 assists, and 247 points in 580 NHL games, what truly set Avery apart were his 1533 penalty minutes. He was no stranger to the penalty box, and his on-ice antics often overshadowed his contributions on the scoreboard.
One particular incident involving Avery became legendary in hockey and led to the creation of what is now known as the “Avery Rule.”
The Playoff Showdown: Rangers vs. Devils
Our story unfolds on April 13th, 2008, during Game three of a playoff series between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils.
The Rangers were up 2-0 in the series and looking to solidify their lead, while the Devils were desperate to turn the tide in their favor.
Early in the game, the Devils found themselves facing a challenging situation. They took two consecutive penalties, giving the Rangers a rare 5-on-3 power play advantage for over a minute and a half.
In hockey, this is a golden opportunity to score, and the Rangers were determined to capitalize on it.
Avery’s Unconventional Screen Play
In a power play, positioning and strategy are critical. The Rangers needed someone to screen the Devils’ goalie, Martin Brodeur, to obstruct his view and create an opening for a goal.
This is a common tactic in today’s NHL, as goalies have become exceptionally skilled at stopping pucks.
However, what Avery did next was anything but common.
Instead of keeping his back to the goalie and his eyes on the puck, Avery positioned his front towards Brodeur. He was using his body as a human shield while keeping a close eye on Brodeur’s movements. This strategy was akin to how NBA defenders guard an opposing player, except Avery added a unique twist.
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Avery’s Bizarre Antics
Avery’s antics didn’t stop with his unconventional screen. He took it a step further by wildly swinging his arms and stick in front of Brodeur, attempting to block the goalie’s vision even more effectively.
It was a bizarre sight, leaving fans and players in disbelief.
Only when the puck was sent back into the Rangers’ zone did Avery halt his antics on Brodeur. This left many wondering whether his unorthodox strategy would pay off or backfire.
The Shocking Outcome
As fate would have it, the worst possible outcome for the Devils occurred. Scott Gomez, a Ranger, carried the puck into the Devils’ zone, received a pass from the legendary Jaromir Jagr, and made a critical play.
He passed the puck right in front of the Devils’ net, and who was there to capitalize on it? None other than Sean Avery himself.
Avery buried the puck into the back of the net, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the game. It was a shocking turn of events, and Avery’s unorthodox tactics seemed to have paid off. However, this wouldn’t be the end of the story.
The Fallout: The Birth of the Avery Rule
Karma had a role to play in this tale. The Rangers went on to lose the game in overtime to the Devils, and the day after this bizarre incident, the NHL decided to take action.
They tweaked the NHL rulebook, creating a new definition of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that included Avery’s actions against Brodeur.
This new infraction was classified as “disorderly conduct during a game,” the penalty for engaging in such conduct was a standard minor penalty, resulting in two minutes in the penalty box for the offending player.
This incident led to the creation of what would forever be known as the “Avery Rule.”
The Aftermath and Legacy
In the end, the Rangers beat the Devils 4-1 in the playoff series, moving on to the next round.
While we can’t say whether Avery’s antics had a lasting impact on the Devils’ players during that game, one thing was sure: Martin Brodeur was not a fan of Sean Avery.
This incident became a defining moment in Avery’s career and added to his reputation as a hockey agitator.
He wasn’t just a player who could score or rack up penalty minutes; he was a player who could get inside his opponents’ heads in the most unconventional ways.
Sean Avery’s unorthodox screenplay and antics in that fateful playoff game against the New Jersey Devils left a lasting mark on the NHL.
It led to the creation of the “Avery Rule,” a testament to the league’s commitment to maintaining sportsmanship on the ice.
While some may view Avery’s actions as unsportsmanlike, there’s no denying that he brought a unique and unforgettable element to hockey.
Sean Avery, a character in the NHL, reminds us that hockey is not only about goals and assists but also about the unforgettable moments created by unconventional tactics.
His wild swings against an NHL goalie symbolize the thrilling and unpredictable nature of the sport. Avery will always be a part of hockey’s history.