Predictions: How long will the NHL suspend Sean Avery?

"Sean Avery has set back the image of the NHL and even relations between pro athletes and women to a point that it will take years to undue the damage." -- Jim Kelley, Sportsnet

It's official: The reaction to Sean Avery's "sloppy seconds" press conference and subsequent suspension are more comical and absurd than anything the man actually said.

Have any of these pearls-clutching hockey puritans sat between the penalty boxes of an NHL game, where the young children of wealthy season ticket holders can hear taunts about what one player's mother did or did not swallow (true story)? Have they ever laughed at well-told tales of junior hockey hazing or sexual exploits that leaves you wondering if young players will grow up to be in the NHL or a state penitentiary?

Or we going to actually believe that the NHL's image has somehow been irrevocably damaged because of Sean Avery's choice of words? On a Chris Simon or Todd Bertuzzi level?

Today, Gary Bettman is going to decide if, in fact, Sean Avery's public degradation rises to the level of a Chris Smion-sized transgression. This is where things get really interesting for the NHLPA. 

Prediction time: How long will Avery's suspension last? What would be an acceptable number of games for you? Are you in favor of the NHL death penalty as some pundits are?

One veteran hockey scribe put it this way to me:

"In the past if a player has his meeting by phone with the league it's never more than four games, and usually fewer. If they're asked to attend in person, it's more than four."

TSN has a poll running where 74 percent of voters are asking for a suspension of more than three games.

Eric Duhatschek of the Globe & Mail is a very informed columnist, and offered this prediction:

The immediate challenge for Bettman, who was perfectly within his rights to suspend Avery for conduct detrimental to the league, is to decide the number of games. The league suspends players for racial slurs. It would be hypocritical not to adhere to a similar code of conduct for blatant misogyny. In general, short single-digit suspensions are seen as slaps on the wrist. This will require a message and usually a message is in the 10-to 20-game range.

The "racial slur" is an interesting precedent to bring up, because the punishments were rather light. Please recall the Washington Capitals' season of tolerance back in 1997, when Chris Simon (three games) and Craig Berube (one game) were suspended for derogatory comments against black players. Simon drops an N-bomb on the ice, Avery ridicules a celebrity couple; remind me which one sets the image of the NHL back?

Some other interesting reactions and news about Avery from the last 24 hours:

The Big Lead made a nice catch on the Associated Press's coverage of Avery's comments. Here's what columnist Jim Litke wrote for the AP:

"I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my (former girlfriends)," Avery said - except the term he used is crude enough that it won't be repeated here.

From TBL: "Is the AP too prude? Have we, as a society, pushed the envelope so far that a crude phrase is part of our common lexicon?"

• James Duthie gets some anonymous comments from Dallas Stars players for TSN, and they're quite damning. Two selections:

"An apology (to the team) won't work," says a third player.  "There isn't much he can say to change the way we feel right now.  We have a lot of pride in this organization.  He isn't welcome here anymore."

"He's been undermining everything we do," says the veteran.  "He doesn't pay attention; he's not smart enough to play our system.  He can't do some drills properly.  He says it's because he's 'independent.' Really, he's just not smart enough."

• Puck Daddy favorite and Dallas super-fan ZMAN is no fan of Avery. He also calls out Brett Hull, which sort of ruins our theory that he's actually Hull's son:

There's been a slew of reaction stories from other NHL teams. Check out what the Senators, Red Wings and Penguins had to say about Avery.

• Death by Leafs e-mailed over some of the Wiki-vandalism hitting Avery's page:

Avery's wikipedia page has gone through a ton of vandalism (and reverts) in the last 24 hrs. Mostly typical stuff, about him being a douche or a shame to hockey, but there are some gems [use the 'compare versions' feature to see the changes]:

- "Transgender figure skater" (Dec 3, 18:28)

- "Homo (Figure Skating)" for the "Los Angeles Queens; Detroit Red Wings...but they deny that allogation; New York Rump Rangers" (Dec 3, 18:26)

- "being a perpetual douche canoe" (Dec 3, 18:26)

- "The Sean Avery rule refers to the fact that no actresses can leave their boyfriends/husbands alone at a Stars' game, for fear Sean Avery will have bangin sex with the boyfriends/husbands and upset the girlfriends." (Dec 3, 18:25)

- "He was suspended indefinitely by the NHL for "general douche baggery". The case is still pending but a majority of people agree with the verdict." (Dec 3, 18:24)

- "He loves wearing pink skirts and banging hot actresses boyfriends." (Dec 3, 18:22)

And my simple favourite:

- "The Red Wings went on to win the Stanley Cup that season, though Avery did not partake in the playoffs nor did he play the required 40 games to get his name engraved on the Cup. hahahaha" (Dec 3, 17:57)

• Last night, I was on with the boys from Relentless on Hardcore Sports Radio about Avery (when they weren't breaking stones over my appearing on a rival talk show recently). Good discussion. (.mp3 file)

• Finally, here's Puck Daddy reader Jon Downie of Colorado Springs with a rant on the Avery matter and the NHL:

OK, this suspension has nothing to do with Sean Avery or Dion Phaneuf. It's really about Gary Bettman not getting off his ass and trying to pull the NHL out of the gutter of the sports world, and instead, trying to bring the NHL back into the news through celebrity community of scandal.

He is trying to make the NHL popular again the exact way Paris Hilton is a household name for whore, in other words for all the wrong reasons. Names like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Tara Reid; do you think of anything positive? No. Unless you have the hots for any of them because you haven't found out about their diseases from down below, you never think positive about any of them because they are famous for all the wrong reasons.

Gary Bettman is a horrible commissioner, but he's not stupid. He sees that in America, everyone is so bored with their day to day lives that they focus on the exciting drug crazed disintegration of celebrities lives, so he wants to bring that scandal-type theme to the NHL instead of getting off his ass and doing the work himself.

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