Listen, probably too much breath and too many words have been wasted already on the incident yesterday involving Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski and Rangers forward Sean Avery.
Bottom line is two guys, playing hard in an intense game, jawed at each other---with much smack, I'm sure, spewed back and forth---and then Wisniewski unfortunately decided to make an obscene gesture/act, repeatedly I might add.
If the referees had done the right thing---the officials clearly had to see what Wisniewski was doing, as you can tell from the video clip I posted---and penalized the Isles d-man for unsportsmanlike conduct then this would be a minor story---vulgar, but minor.
The issue is that the referees chose to ignore Wisniewski, and his act went unpenalized, leading to the inevitable anger from Avery after the game, from which this story really grew legs to become one of the top stories from around the league today.
I was there when a calm, but clearly irritated, Avery said after the game, "It was pretty obvious what happened...it's interesting that you'd get a warning (from the refs) for something like that...can you imagine if I did that (said with sarcastic laugh)...they sent me to rehab the last time I did something like that...it's crazy."
I am not an Avery apologist, and it's not like I have any kind of personal relationship with Sean, just a professional one. His past transgressions, as well as his rap sheet, is well documented.
But he is right. What the heck would have happened if Sean had made the same obscene gesture to Wisniewski? Would the officials have looked the other way as they did on Monday? Not a chance.
I'm not insinuating that the refs are out to get Avery, though I will say that when he returned from his suspension and counseling two years ago, clearly plays involving Sean were ruled on a different standard. But I don't think that was the case last year, and I don't foresee it to be that way this year.
The refs just blew it with Wisniewski yesterday. And as such it has become a bigger story than it likely would have been had there been a penalty called.
Today Hockey Night in Canada analyst, and former NHL player, coach, and GM, Mike Milbury made himself part of the story by shifting the focus away from Wisniewski's ill-advised actions and instead focusing on why he believes Avery is a discredit to the league.
Here's a snippet of Milbury's comments: "Here we are we're talking about Avery again, not because he made a great backhanded pass to set up the game-winning goal, but because he's part of another unsavory incident. It's like watching a car wreck. You know it's not going to be pretty but you can't seem to turn away from it until you've had a look."
News Flash to Mr. Milbury: Avery did not make the obscene gesture. It's Wisniewski who disgraced himself.
Is Sean a saint? Hell no. Is he an agitator to the max? Absolutely. But agitating is part of the game, always has been, always will be. C'mon, Milbury was a pretty good agitator with his play and his mouth while manning the Bruins blueline back in the day. And Milbury the GM/Coach would have LOVED having Sean Avery on his side.
So why all the hatred now?
Funny that Milbury mentioned about Sean not making a great pass for a game-winning goal. Great timing, Mike. Avery had two assists on opening night in Buffalo, including a perfect feed from behind the net on Derek Stepan's third goal of the game. Guess he missed that, huh? And maybe Mike missed that Avery has been one of the two or three best players throughout camp, pre-season, and the first two games for the Rangers.
Don't know which is worse, Milbury's misdirected tirade or the referees' blown call.
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