Getty ImagesIt has been almost a year since Sean Avery went on Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live!" and announced that he had retired from the NHL. "I threw my skates in the Hudson," Avery said then.
On Thursday, Avery appeared on TSN's "Off the Record" with Michael Landsberg in his first Canadian television interview since walking away from the game of hockey. Right off the bat, Avery explained why he decided to retire at a young age.
"The reason that I decided to stop and sort of move into a different direction was certainly the restrictions that were put on me from early on," said Avery. "I certainly pushed the boundaries as far as I could possibly push them."
When asked, Avery expanded on the boundaries he was talking about.
"As a sport, there's restrictions on everyone," he said. "With the athletes, what happens is these guys are given a lot of money at a young age and a team says, 'we're paying you so we're going to dictate your identity and we're going to dictate how you operate in the real world', and then they ride them as long as they possibly can, and rightly so, they're paying them a lot of money. Then, at the end, it's kind of like, 'well, thanks for your service and we'll invite you back for some sort of ceremony at some point', and that's it. What happens is guys wake up the next day and realize that they have a life and a career that they need to find. We can talk about restrictions where I would wake up the next morning and there would be a rule sort of just invented based off something that I did."
"I don't even think [the NHL] actually followed proper protocol in bringing in the NHLPA," he said, in reference to the infamous Avery Rule from the 2008 playoff series against the New Jersey Devils.
The end of Avery's second tenure with the New York Rangers ended with him being placed on waivers days before the 2012 Winter Classic. It was the second time the Rangers had waived him last season. Avery was a consistent healthy scratch with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL and was then left off the team's Clear Day roster, meaning his season was done.
Even with the persona he had on the ice, Avery said he felt like he was in box and bemoaned a lack of creativity and expression while playing in the NHL.
"Why would I fight this anymore?," he said. "First of all, it's not healthy. Second of all, it's not fun, no matter how much money you're getting paid."
Every athlete wants to leave their sport on their own terms and Avery has done that. He left the game of hockey at age 31 and is now focusing full-time on interests that he could only pursue when time allowed him during his career. So is he happier now than when he was playing in the NHL?
"I'm extremely happy with my life today. I was also extremely happy over the course of my career," Avery said.
"It's safe to say that nobody had as much fun as me."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy