Sean Avery, the Stars’ latest addition, takes that gritty attitude to the next level.
Avery, who agreed to a four-year, $15.5 million contract on July 2, put on a Stars uniform for the first time on Wednesday at his introductory press conference at the American Airlines Center.
The Stars add one of the NHL’s premier agitators and fighters, and he’s had his physical and verbal jousts over the years with Morrow, Ott and Stars goaltender Marty Turco. Now they’ll be wearing the same uniform.
“One of the better things about hockey players in general is that we leave it on the ice,’’ Avery said. “We don’t hold grudges. When you get to a new team, guys are always welcoming and brought into the family.’’
The 28-year-old Avery finished with 15 goals and 18 assists in 57 regular-season games for the New York Rangers last season. In eight playoff games for the Rangers, he had four goals and three assists.
A native of Pickering, Ont., Avery has played in 379 NHL games for the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and Rangers, having amassed 65 goals, 102 assists, 167 points and 1,067 penalty minutes. He also has five goals and seven assists in 18 career playoff games.
His most productive season was in 2006-07 when he posted career highs in goals (18), assists (30), points (48), games played (84), shots on goal (249), and average ice time (17:11) for the Kings and Rangers.
“The way he plays and the way he represents himself on the ice and the way our team plays, he’s a great fit,’’ Stars co-general manger Les Jackson said. “We did some real good things the last half of last season and Sean can complement what we have.’’
Avery falls under the category of players opponents hate to face.
“The more guys who say that, the better,’’ Avery said.
Avery skates along the fringes of hockey’s unwritten code of conduct, but he’s not your prototypical hockey goon. He also can skate and score.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to add a player like Sean Avery to our group,’’ Stars co-GM Brett Hull said. “His ability to play the game with skill, toughness and tenacity makes us a better team.’’
Avery has been friends with Hull since they were teammates in Detroit. At the time, Avery was breaking into the league while Hull was headed for the Hall of Fame, a member of the Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup champs.
Avery lived with Hull and wife, Darcie, and Hull is one of the primary reasons Avery is now in Dallas.
“Brett and his wife let me stay with them,’’ Avery said. “He was my favorite player growing up. My first NHL game I went to was in Maple Leaf Gardens in ’92 and I had a sign that said ‘Hull of a Shot.’ I was too embarrassed to hold it up. And 10 years later I ended up living with him. It was an interesting situation. I probably took on his persona a little bit and I don’t think I was really ready to do that.
“As far as watching a guy play, watching a guy being able to read the game and be a big-time player, that was certainly beneficial. He’s a great guy and one of the greatest players of all-time.’’
The Stars will be able to spread Morrow, Avery and Ott among their four lines, giving them a gritty balance.
“With hockey players, one thing that goes on is we battle and when we become teammates, it’s all forgotten,’’ Avery said. “It’s exciting to play with (Morrow). You almost have more respect for guys you’ve battled, whether it’s playing or actual fights or just being in the heat of the moment. Even a guy like Steve Ott
, it’s the same thing. It’ll be fun playing with them. And my fighting minutes might be down a little bit because I won’t have to fight either one of those guys, or battle in front of the net with Turco. We’re going to be a tough team to play against.
“It’s the same with any team, when you put a jersey on, you represent the team and you represent the city. I certainly do cross the line at times, but it’s not anything other than trying to win games.’’
Avery has spoken with most of his new teammates over the summer. They’re on the same page.
“I’m coming to a team that’s happy to have me and expects a lot out of me,’’ Avery said. “I think I’m ready to take it to the next level. I think I showed a little of that in New York. Now I’ve got four years to really show that.’’
A player like Avery could be a difference-maker for the Stars in 2008-09. Dallas’ top three lines are mostly populated with players under 30 who are under long-te rm contracts and are reaching their primes.
“Watching the playoffs last season, watching the series against Detroit, throw me in the lineup in that series is definitely going to make a difference,’’ Avery said. “That’s the most exciting time. The physical presence, there’s a lot of things I’m going to bring to the table. It’ll certainly help our chances against a team like Detroit or San Jose or Anaheim or whoever the team is in the West that we’d be playing in the playoffs.
"We’ve got a lot of firepower coming at you. You want to be in a position to be together and have the opportunity to win two or three Cups in a four- or five-year span. You want to win for a while. Detroit is a perfect example. They’ve kept their nucleus together and brought in a few other guys in the last six or seven guys. I saw those guys growing up together in Detroit. It makes you that much stronger as a team."