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As Lipman speaks, he is showing off his handpicked selection of the black-and-white images in the campaign. Photographer Francesco Corazzini moved in with Avery for several days in late November and early December to achieve a sort of Hickey Freeman-informed vérité. There are shots of Avery standing on his kitchen counter in his underwear adjusting picture frames, and greeting fans after a game at Madison Square Garden (the shoot occurred during his midseason call up), and of him snarling at the camera in sunglasses from the back of a cab. Whatever one’s thoughts on Avery, it’s tough to argue that he doesn’t wear a suit jacket very well. As the digital slides continue to roll, Lipman makes reference to the Avery in the ads a few times as a “prince of the city.” Given Avery’s professional station, it’s an interesting phrase.
“Listen, are there days when I wake up and I am sad?” Avery asks aloud as he stops fidgeting on the couch. “Yeah, of course. Do I pretend I’m not sad? Yeah. Will it beat me or will it win? No, of course not. ‘Cause, you know what? I get to wake up, put a great suit on and I do what I have to do from a business standpoint. I’m in my restaurants, [I’m] coming in here….You’re not going to be able to play in a city forever. I mean, you’re lucky if you’re able to play in a city for five years.…Whether it happened the way it happened now, or it happened because I stopped playing or I got traded. It’s going to be OK. But it sucks.”
Avery is adamant that he can and will play again, this season even (those with a deep understanding of the NHL’s payroll bylaws seem less certain). At the moment, though, Hickey Freeman is launching a national ad campaign, a buy that’s included video ads on the New York Times’ homepage, with a minor league hockey player, who isn’t even playing in the minors.
“In getting to know him, he’s a very cerebral guy,” Hickey Freeman creative director Joseph Abboud says over the phone the next day. “I guess part of the beauty is, he’s a paradox. In one room he could beat you up and in another room he could read you poetry….He’s gonna have to control his own destiny and do what he needs to do after hockey whatever that is. But we didn’t just stand by him because we thought we were being good guys.”
Later that night, Avery is due to meet for a drink at Corazzini’s West Village town house. There’s some confusion on the time, and while he’s on his way, the 29-year-old photographer, son of Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani, is having a glass of wine and chatting about his subject. The pair hadn’t met before the shoot, but have developed an impressive rapport in the few months since.
“As a person, I saw that Sean is very focused,” Corazzini says. “He is in control.…Some people are just not curious. That’s the truth. People, they just don’t care: ‘If I bump into this thing, cool.’ He goes hunting for it. “9 1/2 Weeks,” we saw before the shoot because David recommended it. And we all knew the film, but he watched it on repeat for nine days prior and then another 20 times while we were shooting.”
After some time, Avery arrives at the front door with his own red Solo cup in hand. He declines a drink, citing his own iced tea. He’s changed into a black crew neck sweater, a pair of midnight blue suit pants and simple black sneakers with gum soles. He goes almost immediately to the back door and cracks it open without asking. After discussing the shoot some more, the conversation turns to whether or not Avery holds any ill will for the Rangers.
“How could I be upset?” he says. “I had an amazing time here. I have so many friends that I’ve made out of this. I’ve basically forged a career out of living here.”
Avery is shortly out of his seat, through the house’s front door and on his way down the sidewalk. He’s half a block away when it occurs that Sean Avery, agent provocateur, might have just pulled a punch.