Hockey's most polarizing figure takes us inside the game, shedding light on not only what goes on behind closed doors but also what makes professional athletes tick.
As one of the NHL's most polarizing players, Sean Avery turned the rules of professional hockey on their head. For 13 seasons, he played for some of the most storied franchises in the league, including the Detroit Red Wings, the Los Angeles Kings, and the New York Rangers, making his mark in each city as a player who was sometimes loved, sometimes despised, and always controversial.
In Offside, Avery displays his trademark candor about the world of pro hockey and does for it what Jim Bouton's game-changing Ball Four did for baseball. Avery goes deep inside the sport to reveal every aspect of pro athletes' lives, from how they spend their money and their nights off to how they stay sharp and conditioned and employed. Avery also examines his singular career path - while playing the talented villain on ice, he skated out of character in the off-season, taking on unexpected and unprecedented roles: Vogue intern, fashion model, advertising executive, restaurateur, gay rights advocate, and many more.
Rollickingly honest and compelling throughout, Offside transcends the sports book genre and offers a rare, unvarnished glimpse into the world of 21st-century hockey through the eyes of one of its most original and memorable players.
had no thought or opinion on Sean Avery one way or the other when he played in the NHL. Quite frankly, I had little interest in him, his style of play or his controversies. If he happed to be playing in the game I was watching, I had no issue with the guy, he brought some level of entertainment to the game. But then again in their own ways, so did the other 45 players on the ice.
Being both a player and a fan, I enjoy reading pretty much anything about the game of hockey. Having picked up his book (titled differently in Canada, by the way) and had a look at it at Indigo back in Canada, it intrigued me, but I decided not to spring for the hardcover. However, while traveling, I did see it available on Audible and had some credits to use, so I thought what the hell, and bought it. So some of the tidbits I did read back in Canada, did help me in eventually buying it, albeit in digital form.
First thing is that Avery himself narrates it. I enjoy the authors who narrate their own books, it seems to commit the author in a more profound way to the story. And in Avery's case, this guy is going to tell you HIS story, so its a natural fit. I found that this was an interesting foray into character introspection; Avery is keen on explaining his behaviour to the listening audience, so that in some way, we'll all of a sudden stand up and exclaim: "Oh yeah, his character as detestable as it was in the NHL and even off the ice, was all supposed to be an act.". Avery seems to be looking at this explanation as his redemption for many of the things he did in distaste while a player; whether it was laughing at another player's wife for the way she looked, or humiliating an ex-girlfriend on national TV or his off color and weird behaviour during the course of an NHL game, he defines it as all an "act'. Like an actor setting up a character in a play or movie. He infers that during his career, it was a different Sean Avery in the public eye, than how he was privately.
In this book, he spends an awful lot of time attempting to get the public to buy this. But in his mind, I am sure that he could give a f**k, because in his own words, he didn't care what people thought of him and if this was a way he could stay in the NHL for as long as possible he was going to behave this way.
The book delves into some of the behind the scenes lives of NHLers. Its interesting in that regard, but if you are looking for a "tell all", you will be disappointed. He scratches the surface of bad behaviour only, and rarely or doesn't talk about good behaviour.(charities, hospital visits etc.). He name drops a lot, he talks about the famous women he's dated. He talks about people who had influence on him as a person and hockey player, both bad and good. Brett Hull- Good. Mike Modano- Not so good. Chris Chelios- Good, Mark Hardy- Not so good. John Torterella - Not so good. He has a hayday at Torterella's expense, which I think Torterella had coming anyway.
In fact, he rips some of those who may have had a hand in his success; such as Red Wings GM Ken Holland. I think if its important for Avery at this stage of his life to come back at a GM who once got rid of him for his bad behaviour, he still has a lot of reconciling to do in his life.
Overall, I found the book interesting in the first few chapters and that was it. In spite of his interviews where he says he fashioned the book in a "tell all' format.
Avery is an enigma in that he made the NHL from an unenviable draft position. He never was drafted in the NHL. Yet he put a good enough ACT together to make it. This is an interesting story, and again, he credits his acting and his character development as an outsider and fringe player, with helping him break ground in the NHL.
The stories then got repetitive and more diatribe about about nightclubs, and nightclub people and more clubs and concerts, and more people he name dropped, got mundane. Even his internship at Vogue was disinteresting, in that he took interest in the job, because he could "meet babes". One would think that an NHLer, particularly a Ranger, would not have much problem in meeting babes? There's plenty of them available for sports stars, one would surmise?
He's going to tell you over and over that his name was being chanted at Madison Square Garden. They were chanting for a 3rd liner. Mike Modano never had his name chanted, he will let you know.
In the book, Avery's going to tell you how he made the NHL over and over, when there were naysayers.
He's going to tell you he is a victim in all the controversy and crap he was involved in.
So if you have an interest in his explanations, have at it. As I said, the most interesting part of this book for me, was his determination in making the NHL, which can be said, I am sure for the other 700 or so players who also play in the best hockey league in the world. If you want a tell all, you'll just have to wait, until someone else has the courage to actually write a "tell all" in the sense we all expect.
If you are a hockey fan you owe it to yourself to listen to this book! A tell all book about hockey from hockeys biggest a-hole. Loved every minute.
Where does Offside rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Certainly one of the best books by a hockey player. Very honest, love him or hate him at least he is himself.
What other book might you compare Offside to, and why?
Ken Dryden, The Game - the best book ever written about sports.