By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
But while Avery's lifestyle drifts far from hockey, he makes his living with the things he does on the ice. Nasty, deliberate, agitating things.
When we last saw the Stars they were re-kindling our hockey interest in the spring by winning two playoff series and pushing the eventual champion Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals. But for too long the Stars have been too finesse. Too European. They needed an edge. They needed general manager Brett Hull's former Detroit roommate.
"We were a little too vanilla," Hull said at the controversial signing of Avery. "He's feisty and tenacious. He'll hit and fight and find ways to score. He's fearless. We need that."
But as the Stars stumbled out of the gate 4-6-2—despite owner Tom Hicks' contention that they should compete for the Cup—fingers inevitably began pointing at Avery. Captain Brenden Morrow admitted in training camp that he was among "the 98 percent of players that hated Avery." Teammates roll their eyes when Avery's name comes up, resigned to absorbing his tactics because his skills add a valuable dimension.
After an embarrassing loss in Boston recently in which Avery and Steve Ott drew penalties for fighting, arguing with referees and yelling at fans, Modano called the actions "idiotic and stupid."
"If that's what we're going for," he said, "then they need to find me an office job."
Avery has been, well, Avery. Elbowing opponents. Strategically placing his stick in the most sensitive of areas. Trash-talking. And, most important, being productive. Through 14 games, he led the Stars in penalty minutes (58) and plus-minus (+3).
If we can forgive Terrell Owens for desecrating sports' most sacred star, surely we can pardon Avery for being chippy on the ice and eclectic off it. Right?
"It's just a matter of time until we come together," Avery says. "We're too good of a team. For me, it's just continuing to push and push, to the edge. That's how I've always played and always lived. That's what it's about for me."
Sean Avery isn't the Dallas Stars' "problem." But, if it makes you feel better, go ahead.
He's been called worse.