Maybe Martin Brodeur should just stop talking to Rangers' super-pest Sean Avery. It just leads to new material.
On Friday, the Bergen Record reported that Brodeur admitted he had grown tired of Avery's trash-talking, which often centres around the goaltender's 2003 divorce. "It's been five years," Brodeur says he told Avery. "Find something else."
Well, Avery found something else to do in Brodeur's crease on Sunday. After taking his second goaltender interference penalty of the series, Avery came up with a new, and apparently legal, way to get into Brodeur's head. With his back to the play, Avery parked at the edge of Brodeur's crease and waved his arms wildly in a bizarre effort to distract the Devils' goaltender. He also waved the blade of his stick back and forth in front of Brodeur's mask.
"I've been watching games for 33 years and I have never seen anything like that in my life," Brodeur told the New York Daily News. "If it's within the rules, it's within the rules. The official came over and said it probably wasn't something that should be done."
National Hockey League Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell issued a statement Monday to make the league's position clear going forward. The statement said:
"An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty (Rule 75) will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."
So if anyone tried Avery's ploy again, it will be a two-minute penalty.
"Nobody should have to play hockey with a stick an inch from your face," Brodeur told the Daily News. "But it wasn't a bad play. While he was doing it, I couldn't see anything. The two misses were just luck, I couldn't see a thing."
Although his innovative screen was not directly responsible, Avery did end up scoring a powerplay goal shortly after getting in Brodeur's face.
"It's a 5-on-3 and I'm trying to get to the puck," Brodeur said. "I'm trying to look around him. It was almost impossible because of the stick so close to my face."
For Avery, it was his third goal of the series, which the Rangers lead two games to one. Ironically, through the first two games, he had been lauded in the local press for avoiding the theatrics while playing some great, gritty hockey.
"That's the way he plays, and when he plays that way, he plays his best hockey," Jaromir Jagr told the Daily News before Game 3. "He's scoring goals, working hard, taking bodies, drawing penalties -- perfect."
However he plays, it's clear that he's hugely important to the Rangers. The Star-Ledger noted on Monday that since acquiring him last season in a trade with the Kings, the Rangers are 50-20-16 with Avery in the lineup and 9-13-3 in the 25 games he's missed.
The majority of Avery's peers were not impressed with his act, however he did receive some support from an unlikely place.
"I think he wants to win," San Jose Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick told THE CANADIAN PRESS. "Sometimes he looks like an idiot and it may look bad, but it's probably effective. The kid is a competitor. He has a difficult job, but he's just trying to win night in and night out and that's what is the most important thing."
Outspoken telivision personality Don Cherry disagreed.
"I've known this kid since he was about 16 years old," Cherry told Toronto radio station The FAN 590. "Once a jerk, always a jerk. You can't blame the referee, because . he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Could you believe what you were seeing? I've never seen anything like that and I've been in every league that's ever existed."