During his playing days, Sean Avery would largely stay away from giving reporters juicy inside tales, saying he was saving them for his book. Well, the book is written and Avery delivered.
The retired agitator’s autobiography, entitled Offside: My Life Crossing the Line in Canada and Ice Capades: A Memoir of Fast Living and Tough Hockey in the United States, comes out on Oct. 24 and I highly recommend giving it a read. If you ever wanted to know what players really thought of certain coaches (Mike Babcock, Andy Murray, John Tortorella), which teammates can drive a squad nuts, or just see how the NHL sausage is made (drugs, sex, partying), Avery has the scoop.
What really struck me was the reverence Avery had for the glory-era Red Wings, however. The nasty left winger made his NHL debut in Detroit and lapped up the lessons from legends such as Chris Chelios, Brett Hull, Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan. There are some great off-ice tales about some of these icons – which I won’t spoil – but Chelios is clearly super-human and I had to wonder if Hull will forgive Avery’s entourage for accidentally poisoning the Hall of Famer on one occasion, once he reads the book. Avery’s not concerned, though.
“The people I chose to talk about were obviously guys I had strong relationships with,” he said. “None of them are going to pick up the phone and say ‘I can’t believe you said that about me.’ ”
An avid reader during his playing days, Avery said he always saw a book in his head. He really started to think about his future during the last two seasons of his NHL career and once it was time to pitch, he actually had a different idea: a modern-day men’s guidebook.
But publishers wanted a juicy memoir. Avery had read tons of athlete memoirs, from Jose Canseco and Lenny Dykstra to Andre Agassi, and didn’t feel like the tone of those fit. Then, he was turned on to a classic: Jim Bouton’s baseball tell-all Ball Four.
“The ocean just kinda parted,” Avery said. “Ball Four was really the template.”
So yes, the stories are great here. You can tell that Avery’s final stint with the Rangers was heartbreaking for him and he still laments the fact he no longer has the chance to get the Blueshirts faithful out of their seats with his anarchy.
“When you went to a Rangers game with Sean Avery in the lineup, you had no idea what was going to happen, no f$%^ing clue,” he said. “It was a total coin-toss. Now, nothing happens – maybe a couple pretty goals are scored.”
Which is not to say Avery is completely divorced from the game. With his buddy Shanahan running the Toronto Maple Leafs, Avery has kept tabs on the league and he loves the youngsters who are excelling right now. “When I look at Auston Matthews…he’s far more exciting to watch than Dany Heatley was,” he said. “These are different superstars than when I came into the league. They dominate games.”
As for Avery, he’s moving on to a new challenge: acting. He has already appeared in the Mark Wahlberg flick Patriots Day and has really gotten serious about the task recently, finding an agent and pounding auditions – so don’t be surprised if you see him on an episode of Quantico in the near future.
In the meantime, he’s obviously promoting his book and regardless of whether you cheered or jeered him on the ice, any hockey fan will be interested in the stories he has to tell.