The job of a pest is to get under the other teamís skin, make opponents take penalties and get them off their game. We pestered Avery about his role.
Have you always been a pest?
Yes. Ever since like Grade 2 or 3. Not only at the rink, but at school and everything else I did. I remember once in Grade 6 I was suspended for two days -- a girl tripped me in the hallway so I jerseyed her.
You fight girls?
I didnít say that. I didnít fight her. I jerseyed her, and it stopped there.
So this is not something that you just turn on when you get to the rink?
Not at all, Iím like that everywhere -- 24 hours a day. I just wake up every day and think about who Iím gonna screw with.
Are you serious?
Sure, whether Iím messing around with the bellboys at the hotel, or as soon as I get to the rink. I definitely donít rehearse it, but the better the mood Iím in, the more Iím gonna screw with people.
So you donít care who youíre messing with?
Yeah, like we were at lunch and there were 10 of us. I was bustiní Stevie [Yzerman] about how he should pay for lunch. And he had to pay for lunch. Whaddya think of that? I ate for free ... again.
I never pay for a meal. If you eat with me, weíre either playing a credit card game, or birdies in a bush [a hand game] for a meal. We gotta play for it.
Youíre just a rookie and youíve managed to get under the skin of Bob Probert, Trevor Linden and Tie Domi. What did you say to them?
I canít say, you wouldnít be able to print it. You couldnít even print what I said to Probert in an adult magazine. I obviously wished him a Merry Christmas in the wrong way.
With Probert and Linden, do you care that theyíre veterans or that they have reputations as tough guys?
Obviously, I respect what they have done in their careers, and those guys are great players, but no. Iím a rookie in the league, and Iím gonna do whatever it takes for me to stay here. And if those guys find it disrespectful, then thatís fine. I would definitely like to have an altercation with Tyson Nash [of St. Louis] and find out who the biggest pest in the NHL is for sure. I donít think he can tie my skates.
Is that your goal? To be the new Claude Lemieux?
Yeah, except with a little class. I donít think [Lemieux] has any class. And you can print that.
So itís your goal to be THE pest in the NHL?
Yes. I want to be the Kenny ďThe RatĒ Linseman of the new millennium. Iím well on my way. I want to prove myself to my coach and my teammates first. Scotty gave me the opportunity to play on maybe the best team ever assembled in the NHL.
Do you have a set list of insults?
No, itís definitely spur-of-the-moment. Whatever is on my mind, I just throw it out there. I want to get under their skin as much as possible. I donít think Iíve regretted anything. You have to take responsibility for the things you say.
Whatís your best generic carve?
Well, maybe if a guyís got bad hands, Iíll yell at him, ďJust add water.Ē Or something along those lines.
Wow, thatís pretty lame.
Thatís a mild one. This is going to print. I have a lot better, but Iíd be embarrassed to tell you.
There was this guy in the minors last year, and this guy is an extremely ugly individual. I told him that his dog was supposed to lick his face, not chew it.
Thatís not bad. You mentioned personal attacks -- how personal does it get? Do you go for the throat?
I go after everything, but I stay away from substance abuse -- I definitely donít go there. If a guyís had a drinking problem or something along those lines, thatís his personal issue -- none of my business. But everything else is fair game.
So wives, mothers, kids -- itís all open season?
Yeah. No wait, not kids.
Oh yeah, definitely illegitimate kids.
Anything else we should know?
Nothing. I have the greatest job in the world.
Sean Avery is a center on the Detroit Red Wings. This article appears in the May 13 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
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