Bettman ices sideshow

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- While NHL commissioner Gary Bettman saw fit to suspend Sean Avery six games for his inappropriate comments, Dion Phaneuf figured it would be appropriate to stop talking about it.

"Dion has no further comment," a team representative said before the Calgary Flames hit the ice against the Blues in St. Louis last night.

Apparently, Phaneuf is taking Avery's published apology as seriously as Avery's own Dallas Stars teammates.

Seeking out the cameras in Calgary Tuesday afternoon, Avery made a premeditated comment that was so off-side, Bettman suspended him indefinitely pending a hearing.

"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 sloppy seconds," said a smug Avery, referring to Phaneuf's flame, Elisha Cuthbert, and Los Angeles Kings centre Jarret Stoll's current girlfriend Rachel Hunter, both Avery exes.

Avery's an on-ice agitator who's second to none when it comes to getting under people's skin, so it's interesting his first suspension comes for his off-ice behaviour.

Apologizing through the media Wednesday before Thursday's hearing in New York with Bettman, Avery was given a six-game suspension retroactive to Tuesday's missed game against the Flames.

"Mr. Avery has expressed remorse for his recent comments and has sought a professional anger management evaluation," Bettman said in a statement. "I will require that he follow through with that process as a condition of his returning to the ice and that he complies with any and all recommendations.

"Mr. Avery has been warned repeatedly about his conduct and comments, which have too often been at odds with the manner in which his more than 700 fellow players conduct themselves.

"Playing in the National Hockey League is a privilege, requiring a high standard of personal behaviour. Mr. Avery forfeits that privilege for six games."

Whether it's because their teammate was one of those personally attacked by Avery, or just a general disgust for what came out of his mouth, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Flame not in favour of the suspension.

"I don't disagree with the NHL's decision to suspend him, by any means. I just think he's got to figure some things out," said Flames forward Michael Cammalleri, who considered himself a friend of Avery's when they were both playing for the Kings.

"Guys will tell you that know him -- I'm not the only one -- we talked to him before about this kind of thing. It's got to stop. It'd be best for him and best for everyone around him.

"He's obviously disappointed me a lot this year with comments he made about (Jarome Iginla being 'boring') and the comments he made the other day.

"That's definitely a breach of the friendship we had."

Another former teammate says the suspension could technically be much longer than six games if the Stars cut ties with Avery.

"He might be paying the ultimate price now. I don't know what's going to happen," said centre Craig Conroy.

"He's a good player, I'll give him that. He does a good job when he's out there -- it's just the show that comes along with it that is wearing thin on people."

Robyn Regehr, the Flames' NHLPA representative, just shrugs when asked if the punishment fits the crime.

"It's Gary's decision and he's going to have to live with it," he said. "I really don't want to comment any more. I've already talked about it enough. That's probably what he wanted, us talking about it."

"I don't know if there is a punishment that fits the crime," said Avery's former head coach Andy Murray, who is now behind the bench for the Blues.

"The bottom line is that type of thing shouldn't happen in our game. Sean made a big mistake. I don't even look at the punishment, I just think something like that should never happen."


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