It’s all an act. And it’s a damn good one.
The point Sean Avery made during the E:60 profile about the league’s failings in marketing players is absolutely correct. Go to most cities in America. Ask the general population which hockey players they know. If you’re lucky, you’ll probably hear Crosby or Ovechkin or Lemieux or Gretzky. Maybe you hear Messier. But that’s about it.
There are phenomenal players in the game, Phaneuf and Iginla chief among them. But the average, non-hockey watching American doesn’t know about these guys because the league’s content to promote itself on a third rate cable network (Versus) and it’s in-house network (NHL Network). The league doesn’t need to sell hockey people on the game. They need to sell the public at large.
So, it helps having larger-than-life characters. Avery, for whatever people may think about him, recognizes that it’s a benefit to the league to have a Dennis Rodman-like, pro wrestling bad guy character to sell tickets and generate TV ratings. Selling tickets and healthy TV ratings. What concepts.
Avery recognizes that the NHL does a terrible job marketing itself, the game and the people in the game. So he’s marketing himself. Sean Avery is turning Sean Avery into a brand. That’s brilliant. Instead of fining and suspending him, they should put him to work in the league office as head of marketing.
So when Avery said of Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf, who is dating Avery’s ex-girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert, “I just wanted to comment on how, it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don’t know what that’s about, but enjoy the game tonight,” it pissed the whole league, many fans, the majority of sportswriters, and other types of pundits off. Yet it gained the NHL some much media attention, granted nothing substantial in any benign news either.
Referring to a woman as a sexual object for multiple male partners is disgraceful, but that’s not the point that I’m making here. Avery had drawn the NHL some major promotion with his comments about the NHL not being marketable enough. Yet they later decide to give him the screwjob on another suspension.
Just another reason why hockey sucks.