04.18.08

Gallagher Lookalike ID’s The NHL’s Unlikely Savior

Posted in Hockey at 11:01 am by

“When is the National Hockey League going to to consistently generate TV ratings higher than those produced by the Emergency Broadcast System?” asks the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman, who answers his own question a paragraph or 3 later by proposing the league’s media push be fixated on a dynamic young star. Sidney Crosby? Alexander Ovechkin? Nah, that’s too predictable. How about current Public Enemy No. 1, Rangers D Sean Avery?

The gossip columns often reveal what Celebrahoney he’s dating. He landed on the front page of the Daily News (Mark Messier was the last hockey player to be seen there, when he retired) when his name and cell phone number showed up in the records of Maison de L’Amour, a “midrange” prostitution service.When Avery is talking – which he isn’t right now – he does not hold back an opinion. (When asked why he had not signed a new Rangers contract, he said: “It’s the moo-lah, doo-lah.”) Even when Avery’s in Greta Garbo mode he still “speaks” his mind. Like the other day, when he flipped off a Ch.4 camera.

In the arena, not only is Avery a major irritant to the opposition, but a creative one. That “faceguarding” maneuver on Martin Brodeur inspired hours of sports talk. Much of it from talkies who are allergic to ice.

Avery created a buzz. That’s good for the sport, especially in this town where, for the masses and media decision-makers, hockey is not even a blip on the radar.

Avery can play. Nonetheless, there’s always an undercurrent about his teammates not liking him because he’s a distraction.

That’s part of his mystique, too. All this stuff, capped off by his stick-waving antics with Brodeur, has people outside of hockey’s hard-core fan base tuning in just to see what Avery might do next. The attention Avery has drawn can’t hurt from a ratings standpoint. (The Rangers’ playoff ratings are up over last year’s first round.)

“In a perverse sort of way, Avery is good for TV ratings,” said Neil Smith, the former Rangers GM who presided over the team when it won the Stanley Cup and was a legit ratings magnet. “But I’m sure if somebody stood in front of the goalie and pulled his pants down that would attract attention, too.”

Raissman might be onto something, and ’tis important he made the distinction that Avery was accused of frequenting a “mid-range” brothel. Kevin Stevens opted for something a bit more econo, and nobody every vouched for his ability to improve TV numbers.

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