A lot of words have been used to describe Sean Avery over the years. "Boring" has never been one of them.
Throughout his 580-game NHL career spanning four teams, 10 seasons and countless rounds of controversy, Avery was perhaps the most colorful and maligned player of his generation.
Four years after the former New York Ranger retired at the age of 31 and proclaimed that he disposed of his skates in the Hudson River, Avery's proclivity for being interesting hasn't slowed down.
In a recent conversation, Avery detailed his newest pursuits -- everything from real estate dealings in the Hamptons, selling the life rights about his time interning at Vogue Magazine to a film production company and working on an as-yet-untitled autobiography (co-authored by Michael McKinley, published by Penguin Canada and Blue Rider Press) that he intends to be hockey's version of "Ball Four" -- and shared some opinions on pertinent issues surrounding hockey today.
ESPN.com: Whenever a tell-all sports book is released, the author opens himself up to criticism and comparisons to Jose Canseco. Does this concern you?
Avery: I've read a lot of sports memoirs over the last year. I read [Andre] Agassi's book, I read Canseco's book. They were uncomfortable books to read because Canseco's book was like a vengeance book -- this isn't going to be that. The thing with Agassi's book was I read it, but I just didn't get it. Agassi's book, I couldn't enjoy it. I didn't enjoy anything about it. This was a grown man that kept talking about how much he hated tennis and his dad. That's the furthest thing from something I feel. I don't hate hockey, and I didn't hate playing it. I loved playing it. I didn't like a lot of the things around it. I'm more talking about everything that's ever happened. All of the stuff that people do not know.
ESPN.com: Throughout your career, you had the reputation of being a bit of a trash talker on the ice. How did you decide who you were going to target and what you were going to say?
Avery: I obviously did my homework on guys and found sensitive areas. Gossip in a locker room is heard around every corner, so just keeping your ears open would give me the ability to hear something to add to the vault for a future date. Specific instances are all over this book. S--- talking was a big part of my DNA as a player.
ESPN.com: Your personality always seemed like it didn't quite fit into hockey's culture.
Avery: Almost every single time, it was because nobody had ever seen this or ever tried this. Except it's happening every single day outside of our world. But this world hasn't adapted to anything. It's that conservative, status quo, old-guard mentality that nobody can get rid of. It's like, there's a lot of hockey players that have died recently because of issues they've had with the transition [to retirement]. Everyone wants to blame it on that these guys got punched in the head too many times. That's part of it. But another part is that it's a culture that breeds not letting its individuals become individuals. That makes adjusting to life after hockey more difficult.
ESPN.com: Do you have any specifics of how that old-guard mentality effected you?
Avery: I wanted to list some of the things that went wrong in Dallas, specifically: One, it's over 100 degrees in Texas, and I'm hot. When I'm hot, I sweat. Once, I dust off one of my short suits for a trip to L.A. and I walk on the team plane, to a seat in the back. I know it's going to take everyone a minute to get used to until it actually sticks -- I look great, by the way. The GM [Les Jackson] tells me I need to go home and change and the plane will wait. I've never seen a plane wait for a player to go home and change.
[While with the Rangers], when Twitter first came out and I had an account, the whole world was starting to tweet. I got pulled into a pretty serious meeting that my tweets were going to be filtered by the organization. I wasn't going to be allowed to even access my account. I think that happened because they just weren't used to it. Explaining that, I think, is important. Otherwise, you start getting into the Canseco waters of, 'F--- them, they didn't let me use Twitter.'
ESPN.com: That's more specific team-related. What would be an example of how decisions made in the NHL league office impacted you?
Avery: As silly as this is, I was on People magazine's sexiest people list one year. I was the only NHL player to have a major fashion campaign in the pages of Vanity Fair and GQ. I was a guest on Jimmy Fallon to talk about the upcoming season -- arranged through me. I have 30 other examples. I was also never asked to attend NHL media day before the season. Successful marketers would not market that way.
ESPN.com: You speak glowingly of your minor-league coach, Mike Babcock, now of the Toronto Maple Leafs. How does he compare to some of your other coaches?
Avery: Babcock had the same mentality as we did. He was bringing it every single day and was as hard as he wanted to be on us. He was developing his own language, which he now uses so well to talk to players and keep the Toronto media from ever having a clue what he's thinking. The Toronto media would get the Leafs' last coach, Randy Carlyle, all fired up. He wouldn't talk to them for days. Babcock wouldn't show his cards. He has a manipulative personality for the purpose of being a good coach -- you have to have one. John Tortorella has no manipulation in him whatsoever. He only has one gear, and that's to scream at people and thinks that that's manipulation or motivation. But it's not. It doesn't work on rich players. They can say, 'F--- you. We're going somewhere else.' Or 'We'll get rid of you' -- and we will.