EDMONTON, Alberta -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman harshly criticized Sean Avery on Tuesday, calling the combative forward's crude remark about ex-girlfriends dating other hockey players offensive and disgusting.
Avery was only 23 games into a $15.5 million, four-year deal with Dallas when Bettman suspended him for the Dec. 2 remark. He was eligible to return from his six-game ban Sunday, but the Stars instead announced Avery will not rejoin the team -- ever.
Speaking to a luncheon crowd, Bettman said Avery's remark offended him as a parent.
"To be perfectly honest I wouldn't want to have to explain to my 12-year-old daughter what he said," the commissioner said.
Bettman said he hasn't spoken to the Stars but said they've handled the situation professionally, given the team has continued to pay Avery's salary while it explores other options.
When he was suspended, Avery told the Stars he needed help dealing with anger issues. Co-general manager Brett Hull said Sunday that Avery was in a 10-day, voluntary program that could be extended if counselors determine he needs a longer stay.
Avery, a two-time league leader in penalty minutes, prides himself on doing and saying things to irritate his foes. He savors his reputation as the NHL's most-hated player and contrasts it with a well-publicized interest in fashion. He's dated actresses, been written up in People magazine and spent this summer as intern for Vogue magazine. The fact he has a publicist makes him unique among NHL players.
Although Avery had been fined and NHL rules were changed because of his antics, he'd never been suspended by the league until this month, when Bettman punished him only hours after his now-infamous line.
The Stars were in Calgary, Alberta, so it likely was aimed at Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who is dating actress Elisha Cuthbert. Avery also has dated supermodel-actress Rachel Hunter, who is now dating Los Angeles' Jarret Stoll. Reporters were gathered to ask Avery about comments he'd made about another Flames player, former scoring champion Jarome Iginla.
The 28-year-old Avery is on his fourth team in seven seasons. He came up with Detroit, was traded to Los Angeles and then was dealt to the New York Rangers, who didn't re-sign him when his contract expired.