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Dallas co-GM Hull delivers Avery defense

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com
Brett Hull feels responsible that Sean Avery is a member of the Dallas Stars because as the team's co-general manager, he was a major influence in signing his former Detroit Red Wings' teammate to a four-year contract this summer.

As a result, Hull feels responsible that the Stars are embroiled in the current Avery controversy, which came to a head Friday when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman handed Avery a six-game suspension, without pay, for conduct "detrimental to the League or game of hockey."

"For me it's a little bit harder," Hull said Friday to a gathering of media in Dallas. "I obviously was probably more influential in trying to bring Sean here. We have a past history together. He lived with my wife and I in Detroit when he was a young rookie.

"I thought that he was the type of guy that our dressing room needed to light a little bit of a fire and get a little bit more emotion on the ice. Obviously, it went a little bit overboard. For me it's a little bit difficult because I feel more responsibility for having Sean here."

Nevertheless, during Hull's 17-minute press conference Friday, he never once expressed displeasure with Bettman's final verdict on Avery's punishment; but he also never lashed out at his player.

Hull said Avery, who isn't eligible to play again until Dec. 16, will use the down time to get started on dealing with the personal issues that have landed him in hot water.

Avery was suspended for disparaging remarks, which appeared to be pre-meditated, he made Tuesday morning in part in reference to Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who is dating Avery's ex-girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert.

He also agreed to seek professional anger-management evaluation and, if necessary, structured counseling in light of his pattern of behavior, which the NHL has deemed unacceptable and antisocial.

Avery's comments Tuesday were the latest in a long line of transgressions that have plagued Avery throughout his career since he entered the NHL in 2001 with the Detroit Red Wings.

"We all realize that when you try to fix yourself, the first step is to admit that there is something wrong," Hull said. "I'm not sure why it hasn't been talked about before because it's incident after incident and, finally, it came to a head and the NHL stepped in. I don't know what else to tell you. We have to fix him before anything and with his admittance to needing that, it's a great step forward for him as a person."

Avery's future with the Dallas Stars is murky at best, but Hull said the organization has not yet made a decision on what it will do with the player after the suspension.

Options include an attempt to trade Avery or put him on waivers. If he clears waivers, the Stars will have to find a place outside the NHL for Avery to play. Dallas can also buy Avery out at the end of the season.

"That's something we're going to have to sit down with (Stars owner) Tom Hicks and the rest of our group and figure out what decisions we're going to make going forward," Hull said. "In anything, whether business or sports, obviously chemistry is important. We have to find out if the possibility of that chemistry exists. If it doesn't, we'll go forward and it will be a decision -- that no matter what it is -- (that) will be what is best for the Dallas Stars."

Hull defended Avery by calling him "a good man," who is a "pleasure to be around when he's not around the rink.

"That's what I said to him, 'We need to fix that guy so that when it comes to being around the rink you can remain that guy on the ice and off the ice in the hockey setting,'" Hull said.

The co-GM said he respects Avery's play on the ice and that he has already played through injuries this season and has never once missed a practice as a result.

Avery has 3 goals, 7 assists, a plus-2 rating and 77 penalty minutes in 23 games. The Stars, though, were last in the Pacific Division with 22 points entering play Friday.

"Anybody who tries to use (Avery) as an excuse for their poor play, I'm not sure I want them on my team," Hull said. "You put your own skates on and you pull your own jersey over your head. I could never look at a guy I played with and say, 'Well, he's making me play bad.' Anybody who says that, I'd like to know who they are. I have no problem with what he has done on the ice. It's the other things we need to take care of."

Avery has already issued an apology through his own publicist, but Hull said he anticipates Avery will issue more private apologies, "including, I'm sure, phone calls to the people involved. He has apologized publicly. I think he means it. The reason we're talking about this is because there are issues he has to deal with and the inability to control those things is a big part of it."

Hull said the NHL Players' Association will help Avery seek counsel.

Meanwhile, the Stars will seek the opinion of current players on what they think is the best course of action the team should take.

"I think the team has a lot of input," Hull said. "You look at the people in that room, in Mike Modano, Brenden Morrow, Marty Turco, these are guys that are a huge part of our team and we want them to be comfortable and happy and we want that room to be the best it can be to get wins. They will definitely have their say."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com










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