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Avery 'upset' comments allegedly made to Blake attributed to him

TORONTO -- Sean Avery of the New York Rangers denied making
cancer-related comments to ill Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake
before a pregame altercation between the clubs last weekend.

Avery exchanged words and shoves with Blake and his Toronto
teammate Darcy Tucker during warmups before New York's 3-2 shootout
victory over the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

On Tuesday, the NHL fined the Rangers $25,000, the Leafs $10,000, Avery $2,500 and Tucker $1,000 for the scuffle.

The FAN 590, an all-sports radio station in Toronto, reported
Monday that an unnamed Rangers player said Avery started the
pregame scuffle with comments directed against Blake, who was
recently diagnosed with a form of leukemia.

"I am extremely upset and hurt that false and damaging comments
were attributed to me regarding Jason Blake," Avery said Tuesday
in a statement released by the Rangers. "I made no such comments.
I have lost two grandfathers to cancer and have been a consistent
contributor to multiple cancer-related charities, first and
foremost, Hockey Fights Cancer."

Avery is considering legal action against the radio station.

"I am unable to comment further, as the matter is now being
addressed by legal counsel," the statement concluded.

Avery met with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell on Tuesday in
Toronto to discuss his altercation with Tucker, and both players
and teams were fined by Campbell later in the day.

The Rangers were given a $25,000 fine, while the Maple Leafs
were hit with a $10,000 penalty. Avery will have to pay $2,500, and
Tucker was slapped with a $1,000 fine.

The pregame confrontation seemed to be sparked by Avery, who was
yelling at Tucker before shoving Blake, who is playing while being
treated for his illness. Tucker then slashed Avery before they got
face-to-face in a heated exchange.

A week earlier, Avery -- just back from a 10-game absence because
of a shoulder injury -- was involved in another pregame skirmish
when he jawed at New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. Devils
forward David Clarkson stepped in then.

"The unprofessional conduct of Avery in initiating this
altercation, less than a week after being involved in an incident
in the pregame warmup against New Jersey, is the basis for this
discipline," Campbell said. "Tucker also bears some
responsibility for his inappropriate response.

"Both organizations must also be held accountable for the
players' actions."

The longtime adversaries, known as much for their agitating
abilities as their on-ice prowess, were sent off together in the
first period for unsportsmanlike conduct and fought 8 seconds after
they left the penalty box.

Avery and Tucker continued to jaw at each other while serving
their penalties.

"He has no sense of class and you know, what goes around comes
around in this game, eventually," Tucker said Monday.

This is not the first time Avery has been accused of making
inflammatory remarks.

The brash forward received a league reprimand in September 2005
when he made derogatory comments about French-Canadian players
after then-Phoenix defenseman Denis Gauthier hit former Kings
teammate Jeremy Roenick in an exhibition game. Avery issued an
apology.

During a game against Edmonton the next month, then Oilers
forward Georges Laraque, who is black, accused Avery of using a
racial slur. Avery denied the allegation.

Avery also was outspoken a few months later when he received a
fine for diving during a game. He complained about the punishment,
which resulted from a second offense, and drew a second $1,000
fine. He suggested that the NHL singled him out because of his
earlier comments.

As part of his protest to the diving fine, Avery chastised union
members on the league's competition committee for agreeing to such
penalties that aren't subject to appeal in the collective
bargaining agreement.

Avery also caused a stir in April 2006 with an obscenity-laced
tirade at Anaheim Ducks television commentator Brian Hayward.

Avery was acquired by the Rangers from the Kings last February
and provided a key spark in New York's run to the second round of
the playoffs.

He and Tucker also fought late last season during a game at
Madison Square Garden.

"Darcy has always been a whiner," Avery said after the April 1
game. "You say you don't like his hair and he'll be upset."

Tucker declined to get into a verbal fight then.

"I'm going to take the high road in this one," Tucker said.
"He is what he is. He'll have a comeback for everything."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.