(“fly to Calgary?  how’d you get this number?”)

NY F Sean Avery (above) has generated no small share of antagonism on and off the ice during his professional career, but that’s probably small potatoes compared to the likely reception afforded to the NHL’s first openly homosexual player.  At least, as Avery suspects, where fan reaction is concerned. From the Toronto Sun’s Chris Stevenson (link courtesy Bob’s Blitz) :

“If there’s a kid in Canada or wherever, who is playing and really loves the game and wants to keep playing but he’s worried about coming out, I’d tell him to pick up the phone and call (NHLPA executive director) Donald Fehr and tell him to book me a (plane) ticket.

“I’ll stand beside him in the dressing room while he tells his teammates he is gay. Maybe if Sean Avery is there, they would have less of a problem with it.”

Avery said there are “probably a few gay players in the NHL, but I don’t know if somebody has the courage (to come out).”

He said there probably would be more issues outside the dressing room than inside.

“The reaction from fans in visiting arenas would be tough,” Avery said, “but I don’t think it would be that big a deal. I get booed no matter where I go.”