Anyone who doubts that their ability (or lack thereof) to handle media interviews can have a direct impact on their careers should consider the case of Sean Avery.
Earlier this week, Avery made some awful comments to a scrum of reporters about former girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert (who is now dating Dion Phaneuf from the Calgary Flames). I won't repeat his comments here. You've probably heard all about them by now. If not, just Google it.
The bottom line is that Avery's now famous lapse in judgment (that took less than 10 seconds to speak) will not only cost him his job with the Dallas Stars, but possibly spell an end to his NHL career altogether.
Let's just survey the extensive damage done by one poorly-considered quote to a few sports reporters. Avery has been suspended by the league. His teammates have said openly that they don't want him back. He's sure to take a significant financial hit. The team's ownership and management are in damage control mode. And the Dallas Stars, who are a perenial NHL contender, are having a dismal season. While the team's performance can't be attributed solely to Avery's ongoing behaviour problems, it certainly can't be helping them. And this doesn't even take into account the emotional pain that he's caused his former girlfriend with his mindless comments.
The NHL is a business like any other. The players are expected to represent their organizations in certain manner in their dealings with the media. I've always held that the ability to conduct effective media interviews is a career-enhancing skill. Conversely, the inability to manage interviews strategically can be a career time bomb waiting to go off. That's something Sean Avery will have plenty of time to think about in the years ahead, as he contemplates the multi-million dollar career that was destroyed by a few poorly-chosen words.