For those of you who didn’t catch the news, Sean Avery has announced that he’s going to retire after this hockey season.
Well, “announced” might be the wrong term. In fitting Avery fashion, he was on a talk show on Bravo (Watch What Happens Live), and he gave the following odd, meandering response that sounded like a retirement.
Avery: “That’s…the river..”
Nicole Richie: “I know.”
Tuesday morning, Avery told The Post, “No, that wasn’t a joke; yes I’m retiring at the end of the season, and it’s OK.
“I guess that was my retirement press conference.”
So let’s just assume he’s serious and he’s actually going to pack it in after this season.
I think that’s great.
And I don’t think it’s great in a “Good, he’s out of the game kind of way,” I mean it in a “This is the right decision for him” kind of way.
So many hockey players – SO many hockey players – have no back-up plan after their playing days are done. They devote their entire lives to one thing, and kill themselves for the sport. There are guys in leagues all around the world still pursuing the dream. There’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s admirable in it’s own way – but for many who aren’t going to make it, the years are just ticking by. “Real life” happens eventually. (Incidentally, that topic is very popular half-cut bar fodder in the minor leagues).
It’s great to pursue your dream (assuming you only have one, which doesn’t seem to fit Avery’s profile), but there’s a level of necessary realism when it comes to trying to be a professional athlete in any sport.
If you’re trying to make the NHL and find that you’ve been cut a number of times by the time you’re 25 and you see young kids passing you by, you have the option to step out of the game and start a new career. Or, you can battle it out in the minors until you’re 35, never really get ahead financially, and still find yourself starting at the bottom of the totem pole at your new job when you’re done.
The relationships you form over those years help a lot, but you’re likely to be starting from the bottom rung at some point, while the guy who stepped away from the game at 25 is 10 years into his new gig.
I had no back-up plan when I got a puck in the face on my 26th birthday and found myself resigned to the couch for months with my mouth wired shut – that’s when I started a blog. By the time the wires came off and I saw that writing offered me an out – something I was surprised to find for the first time in my life - I took it. I was fortunate to have that opportunity. I was lucky.
With Avery, he doesn’t need luck, because he doesn’t need hockey. In fact, it’s almost in the way for him. I admire people with diverse interests, and he obviously fits that mold.
Whether his options are things you think are “cool” or not – fashion, modeling, design etc. – they’re options. He has the connections, and doesn’t need to toil around on buses chasing the “glory and fame” of the NHL.
It’s not like he went to his first training camp, got cut and quit. He played in the League for parts of 11 seasons and played in 580 games. Been there, done that.
On top of it all, the abuse Avery takes for being different in the hockey community….he doesn’t need that. If he wants to be his usual, flighty self, than he’s free to take it somewhere more peaceful.
Maybe he never would’ve played in the NHL again. Maybe he could’ve worked his tail off this summer and made it back. But for some people, the NHL isn’t everything, as much that kills those who list playing in the league as their ultimate, lifelong goal. If that’s the case for Sean Avery and he’s tired of beating his head against the NHL’s wall when he has other interests, then good for him.
It just seems like his time in the NHL has run its course. It’s time for him to turn to a new page of his curious choose-your-own-adventure book.
If he actually does flip pages, I’ll be happy for him. For some, there’s more to life than hockey.