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Stars' Avery suspended 6 games by NHL

NHL.com @NHL

NEW YORK (AP) -Sean Avery was suspended for six games by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Friday after the league's most notorious agitator made a crude comment regarding his ex-girlfriends dating other hockey players.

Avery already has served two games of the suspension and will serve an additional four, making him eligible to return Dec. 16 against Phoenix, if Dallas Stars management and his teammates accept him back.

Avery also agreed to be evaluated for anger management. If necessary, he will then receive "structured counseling in response to a pattern of unacceptable and anti-social behavior," the NHL said.

Bettman deemed Avery's behavior "detrimental to the league or game of hockey." The commissioner said in a statement that Avery has "expressed remorse for his recent comments and has sought a professional anger management evaluation. I will require that he follow through with that process as a condition of his returning to the ice and that he complies with any and all recommendations."

He added that Avery has been warned repeatedly about his behavior, saying that too often it has been "at odds with the manner in which his more than 700 fellow players conduct themselves."

"Playing in the National Hockey League is a privilege, requiring a high standard of personal behavior," Bettman said. "Mr. Avery forfeits that privilege for six games."

Avery had been under an indefinite suspension from Bettman since Tuesday when the forward sought out reporters to make his vulgar remark. He spent three hours Thursday at a disciplinary hearing at league headquarters in Manhattan.

Avery sat out Dallas' 3-1 win over the Flames on Tuesday and again Wednesday when the Stars lost at Edmonton 5-2. When, or if, Avery will play for Dallas again remains to be seen. His teammates haven't defended him since he got into trouble and don't seem too interested in welcoming him back.

"That is something that is going to have to be addressed within our organization," Stars general manager Brett Hull said Thursday.

Avery was denied a chance by teammates to apologize to them, and his message of contrition Wednesday was distributed by his publicist and not by the Stars.

Reporters in Calgary, Alberta, were waiting to speak with Avery on Tuesday about disparaging remarks he'd made last month about Flames star Jarome Iginla when Avery walked over to the group and asked if a camera present. When told there was, he said, "I'm just going to say one thing."

"I'm really happy to be back in Calgary; I love Canada," he said. "I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my (former girlfriends). I don't know what that's about, but enjoy the game tonight." He then walked out.

Avery's ex-girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert of the television show "24" and the movie "Old School," is dating Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf. She also had been romantically linked to Mike Komisarek of the Montreal Canadiens.

Avery also dated Rachel Hunter, the former Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model and actress who is the girlfriend of Los Angeles Kings center Jarrett Stoll.

"He was remorseful in what he did. It's about all you can do," Hull said. "I hope that we can put this all behind us and we can make sure that the league and the Stars and the NHLPA do everything to make sure that I don't have to stand here or anyone else has to stand here and talk about stupid things like this anymore."

Although this is Avery's first suspension in his seven-season NHL career, he often has courted controversy with his comments or unorthodox behavior on the ice. Stars owner Tom Hicks was quick to support Bettman's decision to suspend Avery.

Avery left the New York Rangers this summer after 1 1/2 seasons and signed a four-year, $15.5 million deal with the Stars. Dallas might try to cut ties with him soon.

"He is a good player and it shows in the salary he commanded," Glenn Healy, the union's director of player affairs said after he left the hearing. "I have no doubt that if the Dallas Stars have no interest in Sean's services, a team will. He showed in this city what he can mean to a hockey club.

"That's a Stars issue. I have no idea what they intend on doing. Brett was in the meeting and he spoke highly of Sean. If they have other motives, then they haven't expressed them to us."

Hull, a teammate of Avery's several years ago with the Detroit Red Wings, doesn't regret bringing the player forward to Dallas.

"The day I stop taking risks to make our organization the best I think it can be I'll have to step away. You have to take risks sometimes to become a championship team and that's what we're trying to do."

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AP Sports Writer Jaime Aron in Dallas contributed to this report.

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