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Sean Avery, once and perhaps future National Hockey League agitator without equal, was in the big airy loft he rents in a SoHo walk-up one recent morning just back from spin class and considering its clientele.
“I would really like to come back as a TriBeCa housewife,” Avery says, halfway into a neatly tailored chalk-striped gray wool suit.
“It’s just amazing, you know?” he goes on. “8:30 in the morning you just drop the kids off at school. You probably didn’t even have to get them ready for school because I’m sure somebody’s doing that. And then you go bang out a workout. And then you probably hit one of those places down there for breakfast maybe. And then I don’t know what happens the rest of the day. I guess you kind of just cruise…hit a board meeting for one of the charities that you’re on. And then you go shopping.”
Avery is pacing the apartment getting ready for his day at double speed: pulling the dry cleaner’s paper out of a white dress shirt, choosing a light gray knit tie to pair with it, calling his car service to check on a pickup.
“I mean no,” he says reconsidering. “It would last two weeks and then I’d go crazy. I’d definitely go crazy.”
It’s late January and the New York Rangers, the team with which Avery has spent the better part of his last five years, are three points atop the NHL’s Atlantic Division. The club is off to its best start in years. But Avery is standing at the island in his kitchen considering the plight of Manhattan’s leisure class.
The Rangers put the 31-year-old left winger on waivers in October following a training camp in which, depending on who you ask, he was either unproductive or not given the chance to produce. He went unclaimed and reported to The Whale, the team’s minor league affiliate in Hartford. Though he was called back up for a stretch in November and December, by the new year the team had reassigned him back to Hartford almost certainly for good.
“I don’t want to jam up Sean here — I think we have better players than Sean Avery, plain and simple,” coach John Tortorella, who had been a detractor of Avery’s as a television analyst before taking the Rangers job (and taking on Avery) in 2009, told beat reporters after the October cut. (The team declined to comment for this article.)
Standing in his apartment, wearing only tattoos from the waist up, Avery is a touch intimidating, at least physically. His broad shoulders and cut trunk give him the look of a turn-of-the century bare knuckler. He has freckles and intense, light eyes. A scar above his left lip can give his smile a “try me; I dare you” effect, even when he’s not goading anyone in particular.
Still, it’s currently proving difficult to reconcile the Sean Avery standing at the kitchen island — with the flowers he arranged himself and latest issues of Elle Décor and Architectural Digest spread out on it — with the Sean Avery of reputation. This is not the Avery the Dallas Stars dropped in 2008, a few months into a four-year, $15.5 million contract because he referred to his ex-girlfriend, the actress Elisha Cuthbert, as “sloppy seconds” in a locker room interview. Or the one who, just four days ago, had scored a goal in the second period against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and immediately started a brawl that earned him 14 penalty minutes. (He hasn’t skated in a game for the Whale since.) Or the Avery who was arrested in Los Angeles last summer for allegedly shoving a cop investigating a noise complaint at his home there, which he was in town to sell. The charges were eventually dropped.
This Sean Avery is jocular and self-aware and texts at 7:45 to advise that the day may require shorts and flip-flops. He adds an “LOL” for good measure.