The Dallas Stars' forward apologized Wednesday for comments about his former girlfriend that led to an indefinite suspension from the NHL.
"I would like to sincerely apologize for my off-color remarks to the press yesterday from Calgary," Avery said in a statement before leaving for New York and a hearing with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that's scheduled for Thursday.
"I should not have made those comments and I recognize that they were inappropriate. It was a bad attempt to build excitement for the game, but I am now acutely aware of how hurtful my actions were. I caused unnecessary embarrassment to my peers as well as people I have been close with in the past.
"I apologize for offending the great fans of the NHL, the commissioner, my teammates, my coaching staff and the Dallas Stars management and ownership. As many of you know, I like to mix it up on and off the ice from time to time, but understand that this time I took it too far."
The apology came one day after the NHL suspended Avery indefinitely, pending the hearing scheduled for Noon ET on Thursday at the League's offices in New York. He will be accompanied by Stars' Co-General Manager Brett Hull. Avery was not in uniform for the Stars' 3-1 victory in Calgary on Tuesday night or their 5-2 loss at Edmonton on Wednesday, and there is no timetable for when a decision might be reached after the hearing.
"Until Mr. Bettman and the NHL decide what the right punishment is, we're kind of just waiting," said Hull, who also flew to New York on Wednesday.
The soonest Avery could return is Friday night at home against Colorado. His absence especially hurts because Dallas has been fighting injuries all season. A lack of healthy bodies has turned last season's Western Conference finalists into one of the worst teams in the NHL thus far this season, and they played with only 11 forwards against the Oilers.
"It's something that's hard to tolerate, knowing the situation we're in," Hull said.
The League said the suspension was issued in accordance with the provisions of By-Law 17 and Article 6 of the NHL Constitution for conduct "detrimental to the League or game of hockey." The suspension was imposed following inappropriate public comments about the personal lives of opposing players, and not pertaining to the game, made by Avery at the morning skate on Tuesday.
The NHL has fined Avery in the past, and he was once suspended by the Los Angeles Kings, the second of the four teams he's played for. Other players have been suspended for retaliating against Avery, including Chicago's Ben Eager, who got a three-game suspension for swinging his stick at Avery. However, this is the first time in his seven-year career that the NHL has taken him off the ice.
"Maybe they decided that this one crossed the line further than all the others," Hull, who played with Avery in Detroit several years ago and was a driving force behind signing him, said Tuesday.
"More than anything, he's let his teammates down. That's the worst part of it. It's basically a fundamental -- you don't embarrass the team and you carry yourself with class and good character. I've told him before, there's more to the game than just lacing up the skates. There are things you have to be accountable for."
Though the Stars are shorthanded, Avery may not get a warm welcome when he does return to the team.
"From my own standpoint, there’s a great deal of frustration and embarrassment," coach Dave Tippett told the media before the game in Edmonton. "Ten minutes before Sean came out with those comments, I defended him — and that's very disappointing to me. There’s been people from management to coaches to teammates that put a lot of time and effort to try and get him engaged in our group.
"As far as him coming back and rejoining the team, we’ll have to wait and see what Mr. Gary Bettman says. From a coach's standpoint, I try to build a team where players play for each other and care for each other and play with continuity. I find it hard to believe that Sean can come back in that dressing room and find that continuity again. That's still up in the air, but that's my own personal feelings."
His teammates may not exactly roll out the welcome mat, either.
"We as players support Dave in his comments and how he's handled the situation, and (co-General Managers) Les Jackson and Brett (Hull)," center Mike Modano said after the game. "I guess time will tell how it plays out and what the future holds for Sean."
Added goaltender Marty Turco: "It's out of my hands and not my concern at this point. I'm just getting ready to play, travel and get back in the win column."
Dallas owner Tom Hicks issued a statement Tuesday on the Stars' Web site backing Bettman's decision.
"I completely support the League's decision to suspend Sean Avery," Hicks said. "Had the League not have suspended him, the Dallas Stars would have. This organization will not tolerate such behavior, especially from a member of our hockey team. We hold our team to a higher standard and will continue to do so."
Avery, 28, has 3 goals and 7 assists for 10 points and has 77 penalty minutes in 23 games with Dallas, including a goal in Sunday's 4-3 win over Edmonton. He is in his first season with the Stars after signing a four-year contract with the team this summer. But the Stars, who made the Western Conference finals last spring, have just 22 points — tied for the fewest in the conference.
"This is a situation where he's painted our organization with a brush nobody wants to be painted with," Tippett said before Wednesday's game. "I know from a personal standpoint, that's not the way I want to be perceived as an organization and as a team."
Avery is playing with his third team in as many seasons and the fourth of his career. He's also become a celebrity beyond the sports world through his interest in fashion, including a summer internship with Vogue magazine.
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.