Lewd talk shines negative light

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

The NHL needs media attention south of the border.

Desperately.

Problem being, attention on the PerezHilton and TMZ websites isn't what the league had in mind. At least not the kind of notoriety caused by Sean Avery's crass comments Tuesday in Calgary.

Sometimes, negative attention isn't better than no attention at all.

"There was so much hype about hockey last year -- with everything going on with Pittsburgh and Detroit -- and hockey was coming back on its own merits, the game, the speed and how everybody plays," said Flames centre Craig Conroy yesterday.

"Then something negative like this is so disappointing. People enjoy it, like to talk about it, but it's not what this game is all about it. We feel we've got the best fans in the world and the non-fans will see this stuff and think, 'This league's a joke,' and it's not.

"This is a great sport, great guys in it, and when you have one guy make comments like that, it makes the league look bad.

"This is something hurtful, and the worst part is it's not between guys. I've got no problem with that (stuff on the ice). To bring in people, women, who have nothing to do with it is wrong.

"Saying something on the ice, I'm not condoning it, but it happens all the time between guys. It's not a million people hearing it, watching it, talking about it."

In anticipation of the Flames and Dallas Stars game, Avery said: "I'm really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada. 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."

Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf is dating actress Elisha Cuthbert, who, in the past, dated Avery. Before the Flames and Stars squared off, Avery was slapped with an indefinite suspension.

He will meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman today to learn his fate.

Avery yesterday issued an apology, which read in part: "It was a bad attempt to build excitement for the game, but I am now acutely aware of how hurtful my actions were. I caused unnecessary embarrassment to my peers as well as people I have been close with in the past."

Phaneuf refused further comment on the incident yesterday and Cuthbert's publicist did not return messages.

The incident was discussed at length on Jim Rome's radio show and a litany of entertainment websites. Flames players were disappointed to have their game and league put in such a negative light.

"I don't even like to comment on the guy because I don't think he deserves the media time," said defenceman Cory Sarich.

"I don't think there's a place for this," Andre Roy added.

"I think the league made a good decision. Sean Avery, the whole league knows, he likes people to know about him and talk about him so nobody forgets about him, but it gets old.

"Guys are sick and tired of him, even his teammates. The league took good action there, and hopefully he's out for good."

Now, the NHL has to repair a damaged reputation.

"I think (Avery's comments) cast a very negative light on not just hockey players but the game of hockey," said defenceman Robyn Regehr.

"It's filled, for the most part, with very good people and athletes, ones who care not just about their team and winning and, if you look at it, are very involved in the community and try to make a positive impact on the community.

"Having something like this happen garners a lot of attention -- very negative attention -- and it undoes a lot of those good things we're working on doing."

Plus, there's the potential perception hockey players don't respect women.

"With the thousands and thousands of interviews hockey guys have done, and the dealings with the public, I don't think you get that image," Regehr said.

"Now, this clip of this one player is on television and in print, and people are able to run over and over and able to put a spin on a story.

"That's what I'm disappointed with."


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