SUN Hockey Pool

Dion takes high road

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

Dion Phaneuf refused to retaliate last night following an unprovoked verbal attack by Sean Avery that netted the Dallas Stars agitator an indefinite league suspension.

Phaneuf, who fiercely guards his private life, was brief when responding to Avery's calculated cheapshot leveled yesterday at him and girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert.

"I thought it was a very disrespectful comment and the league took action and I definitely agree with the way they took action," was all Phaneuf would say.

"I don't think its entertainment when you're trying to embarrass or insult other people, and I think the league made the right move," added Flames captain Jarome Iginla after last night's 3-1 loss to the Avery-less Stars.

Following the Stars morning skate at the 'Dome yesterday, Avery told a crowd of reporters he wanted to make a statement before dropping a bombshell that immediately attracted the attention of the league.

"I'm really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada," said a smug Avery, who used to date 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."

Craig Conroy, who played with Avery in L.A., felt no pity for the Stars winger after what he saw as an attempt at humour.

"He probably thought it was funny and the league, the Dallas Stars and nobody thought it was funny," said Conroy.

"It backfired and now he's suspended. He was trying to be smart and it bit him. If he would have said it on the ice, who cares? To say it in the media is uncalled for and uncalled for for her.

"It's not one person, he's actually talking about a couple people."

Flames forward Daymond Langkow, a good friend of Phaneuf's, condemned the attack.

"You've got to think eventually he'd cross that line and I guess he did this time," said Langkow. "It's one thing to try and make a name for yourself, but when you're talking about somebody's personal life, that's crossing the line. That's just the way he is."

The premeditated shot drew gasps from Stars teammates, many of whom were shocked even Avery would stoop that low. While several younger players seemed to think it was funny, the veterans failed to find humour in it.

"I don't know -- I don't get surprised too often any more," shrugged Mike Modano, who has previously suggested Avery's on-ice antics would drive him to an office job.

"We expect that sort of thing out of him," sighed Marty Turco. "The show continues."

Stars owner Tom Hicks applauded the league's response, suggesting his club would've done the same.

"This organization will not tolerate such behaviour, especially from a member of our hockey team. We hold our team to a higher standard and will continue to do so."

Cuthbert's publicist did not return phone calls last night.

The date for Avery's hearing with Gary Betmann has not yet been set but he will not continue travelling with the club.

AVERY'S ANTICS OVER THE YEARS

Sept. 2005

The irony is thick when, following a pre-game hit by Denis Gauthier, Avery says: "I think it was typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not back anything up."

April 2006

Avery's ability to divide a dressing room became clear when, after a season of reportedly teasing teammate Dustin Brown about his lisp, the Kings kicked him off the team late in the NHL campaign.

March 2008

New York Daily News reported Avery was listed in a "little black book" seized from the computer of a Manhattan-area madam on trial. Avery denied it, claiming he was a victim of a practical joke. The madam's attorney denied he had contact with her.

April 2008

The "Sean Avery Rule" for unsportsmanlike conduct is created during the playoffs after he turns to face Martin Brodeur and waves his hands and stick in front of the goalie's face to provide a screen.

Summer 2008

Avery interns at Vogue magazine. He reveals on ESPN that as a child, he would play with dolls he'd steal from his sister and babysitter.

Dec. 2 2008

Avery is suspended for remarks aimed at Flames blueliner Dion Phaneuf and Phaneuf's girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert.


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