Sean Avery

Diving: The Real Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Much has been written and said about Sean Avery‘s power play antics in front of Martin Brodeur during Game three. Whether it made you laugh, or disgusted you, the ruling by Colin Campbell was definitive, and appropriately timed, and will ensure that the Stanley Cup playoffs do not turn into a farcical game of charades each time the puck ends up in the offensive zone.

With that said, the amount of bitterness and caustic comment directed toward Sean Avery is both disingenuous and reeks of hypocrisy. While many commentators were rightly amused, some went so far as to say his actions hurt the league’s image, perhaps more effectively representing their opinions of Sean Avery the individual than what he did.

It’s clear to me and from those I’ve talked to, that the majority opinion amongst casual and non-fans is one of either amusement or in most cases non-interest. Far from ruining the league’s image, it probably generated more conversation about hockey than the playoffs themselves have so far.

There is certainly no way that you can put this incident in the same realm as those involving Marty McSorleyChris Simon and Todd Bertuzzi, and it will do far less damage to the credibility of the league, than the decision during the 1990s to allow a team called the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim into the NHL. A decision that still solicits derisive comments from non-hockey fans.

But while the comments came quick and fast on Avery, those very same commentators have been silent when it comes to Martin Brodeur and his flair for the dramatic.

Not unsurprisingly perhaps, Brodeur’s prepondence to fall down at every opportune moment, has coincided with the rise of the Rangers and the acquisition of Sean Avery in 2007. When challenged by the grating Avery last year in a regular season game, Brodeur through his head back as if punched and immediately fell to the ice, drawing a power play.

One thing you can say about Brodeur, he’s smart, and he learned that he could get away with such histrionics. Similar incidents occurred in games this regular season, but last night he took it to a new level.

It started in the second period when Fredrik Sjostrom was jostled by a Devils defender and collided with Martin Brodeur. Sjostrom perhaps added a little more, and Brodeur perhaps also reacted a little more than the contact warranted. Both players were penalized, though there have been far worse allowed in the past.

Late the second, Jaromir Jagr drove through the crease and clipped Brodeur’s helmet with his hip. On the replay you can clearly see Brodeur react late, and then flop to the ice as if being knocked out. The Devils netminder can then be seen pushing his helmet off while he lays prone, ensuring that the play was stopped.

The officials, perhaps fearing another lambasting from Lou Lamoriello and Brent Sutter, elected not to call either a dive or a delay of game, and instead allowed the play to devolve into a pushing match that saw Jagr and Jersey defenseman Johnny Oduya head to the box with matching roughing minors.

Not content with getting away with a blatant dive, Brent Sutter had the temerity to not only ignore the call, but to complain about the first one for diving. The MSG broadcast meanwhile featured a collage of Brodeur dramatics during the ensuing intermission.

The frustrating part for opposing fans, is that Brodeur’s style of playing at the top of, or outside the crease, as well as his ability to play the puck, put him in a position to get hit, and yet the opposing player is almost always the one penalized.

It is time for the league to remind Brodeur that there there’s a reason diving is appended with the “unsportsmanlike conduct” moniker. It’s time for commentators to start calling Brodeur’s actions into question, lest they fall into the real trap of becoming a league of bowling pins, apt to fall over at the slightest hint of contact.

There’s no need for the NHL to make a new interpretation in the rulebook, it’s already there…it’s called Diving – Unsportsmanlike Conduct.

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