For the second time this fall, there's a storm over a story and I'm apparently missing the point.
First it was Bill Belichick and SpyGate. I understood that he was breaking rules; I just also understood that stealing the other guy's signals was what every team was trying to do on a regular basis.
Or why would they need secret signals?
Now everybody's up in arms about Sean Avery after Saturday night's Rangers-Leafs game, and to be sure, this is a juicy story.
But outrage? I don't think so.
Peel away all the rhetoric and here's what you have: two guys pushed and shoved during the pre-game warmup, said nasty things to each other and then fought during the first period.
And don't tell me that Avery may have said something particularly awful. Folks, these players say terrible things to each other every night. To say trashing another player's family is out-of-bounds is laughable - saying ugly things about an opponent's wife or girlfriend is standard NHL fare.
That stuff goes on in baseball, basketball and football as well, and we all remember the World Cup incident that motivated Zidane to go headbutt-crazy against the Italians. But the NHL is the only league that routinely allows all the extracurricular stuff, all the face-washing and wrestling after the whistle and screaming at opponents in the penalty box.
In fact, it tacitly endorses it, and when it explodes into full-blown fights, well, the NHL has made it clear it believes this is good for business.
So re-discovering religion when it comes to Avery's antics just doesn't wash, particularly when it comes from a trash-talker like Darcy Tucker or a paid enforcer like Wade Belak.
I might say this stuff is bush-league and moronic. But there's just nothing out of the ordinary here as far as what the NHL allows and many hockey people celebrate, and to use the pro-fighting argument, I'm sure there were lots of people standing at the ACC on Saturday night during the warmup, hoping for a brawl to erupt. And to the fight people, the fact that people watch is all that matters. Was Don Cherry upset at the pre-game silliness on Saturday? Sure he was. But he cheers for the Leafs and calls Tucker a friend. Whose side do you think he's going to take?
Tom Renney just laughed on Saturday night when told Tucker had called Avery "classless," mostly because he coached Tucker with the Kamloops juniors and won a Memorial Cup with him and could tell all kinds of stories about Tucker and trash-talking and pre-game scuffles.
Sure, Avery's a creep. But there's a long history of those types of irritating players in the NHL going back to the days of Bugsy Watson. And while Belak tried to twist this into an argument about getting rid of the instigator, the fact is that Avery does drop the gloves and fight. A lot. In fact, a lot more than Tucker ever has, even back in his Sideshow Bob days.
Like SpyGate, this is a good story, a juicy one. But meaningful it is not, nor is it one to get all worked up about.
(Ed. note: Based on a few of the comments here, people seem to have already decided that Avery said something about Blake and cancer. Nothing has been proven. Moreover, Tucker was giving as good as he got in the verbal end of things during the pre-game, and it was he who waved his stick in Avery's face. Why is Tucker automatically the innocent here?)