League slips up on French-Canadian slur

Published October 2, 2005

Apparently in the new NHL, it's okay to insult an entire ethnic group.

Check that. It's okay to insult French Canadians.

Kings forward Sean Avery escaped suspension for insensitive remarks made last week.

After Phoenix's Denis Gauthier hit Avery's teammate, Jeremy Roenick , with a borderline check, Avery said Gauthier was "typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on." He went on to say visor-wearing French Canadians "don't back anything up."

The league issued a statement calling Avery's comments "insensitive and inappropriate" and threatening discipline for "similar misconduct."

That's not good enough. The NHL basically said it's okay to do it once as long as you don't do it again. Huh?

The NHL should have slapped Avery with a severe suspension to finally put an end to this French-Canadian bashing that has been going on in the league for decades.

"It's racism," Edmonton's Marc-Andre Bergeron told the Edmonton Sun . "It doesn't matter if it's about French or black or Chinese, you have to respect everyone."

Avery apologized for his comments, but that will not be the end of it.

"If he's looking for a French guy who will back it up, I'm his guy," Colorado's Ian Laperriere , a former teammate of Avery, told the Rocky Mountain News . "Print it. I'll be more than happy to back it up.

"What really makes me mad is he is taking away too much attention right now. ... He should talk about us being back on the ice instead of saying stupid racial things. It's a racial thing. If he said anything about any other ethnic (group), you'd get fined, suspended. You can't say that."

WHERE'S THE PANIC BUTTON?: With additions Chris Pronger and Michael Peca , the Oilers think they have a chance at their first Cup since 1990. But there are concerns about goaltending.

No. 1 man Ty Conklin has been struggling with a groin strain all preseason and is giving up more than three goals a game. His backup, Jussi Markkanen , hasn't played because of a broken collarbone.

Neither has proven he can be a No. 1 goalie. Conklin played 38 games last season and Markkanen played 33.

Oilers fans are getting nervous.

"I don't have any problems with how the fans are thinking," Conklin said. "If I was a fan, I'd be thinking the same thing.

"There's going to be questions until a goalie proves he can play every night. But every goalie at one time was unproven."

SHUFFLING OFF TO BUFFALO: While the Oilers can't find a goalie, the Sabres have one too many with Ryan Miller , Martin Biron and Mika Noronen .

The Sabres want Miller to become the No. 1 goalie. Biron probably will start as No. 1 but hasn't had a good preseason. The odd man out is Noronen, who probably will request and be granted a trade if he doesn't make the team.

In 2000, Noronen became the first player to be named Hockey News ' prospect of the year in two straight years.

"I really don't think (Noronen) got a fair assessment from my part," coach Lindy Ruff said, "but I didn't want to spread the assessment so thin that I wouldn't be able to assess where Ryan was at or where Marty was at after the year off.

"You're going on your gut. I didn't want to be thinking, "Boy, I wish I would have had him play one more game.' It probably ends up not being fair for one guy."

SOUTHERN FRIED HOCKEY: Hey, the Predators sold out their home opener thanks to two Nashville businesses.

Steve Violetta , the team's executive vice president of business affairs, said BellSouth and Southern Ice purchased "a couple hundred tickets" to make it a sellout.

About 3,000 tickets remain for the second home game of the season.

SINGING THE BLUES: An in-shape Keith Tkachuck , who was suspended for failing his physical after apparently eating too many cheeseburgers during the lockout, is back with the Blues and all is forgiven.

Blues captain Dallas Drake said, "He just came in and said, "Guys, I apologize for the situation I put you in. I put everybody in a bad spot a little bit.' It was fine. We're just happy he's back."

ICY BITS: Bet you didn't know this: The Islanders are among nine teams that have made the playoffs each of the past three seasons. The others are the Devils, Flyers, Red Wings, Avalanche, Maple Leafs, Senators, Canucks and Blues. ... The Blackhawks will chose a captain this week and a leading candidate is former Lightning defenseman Adrian Aucoin . Other possibilities are Kyle Calder , Mark Bell and Martin Lapointe .

--Information from other news organizations was used in this report.