TORONTO (AP) -Sean Avery of the New York Rangers denied making cancer-related comments to ill Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake before a pregame altercation between the clubs last weekend.
Avery exchanged words and shoves with Blake and his Toronto teammate Darcy Tucker during warmups before New York's 3-2 shootout victory over the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
The FAN 590, an all-sports radio station in Toronto, reported Monday that an unnamed Rangers player said Avery started the pregame scuffle with comments directed against Blake, who was recently diagnosed with a form of leukemia.
``I am extremely upset and hurt that false and damaging comments were attributed to me regarding Jason Blake,'' Avery said Tuesday in a statement released by the Rangers. ``I made no such comments. I have lost two grandfathers to cancer and have been a consistent contributor to multiple cancer-related charities, first and foremost, Hockey Fights Cancer.''
Avery is considering legal action against the radio station.
``I am unable to comment further, as the matter is now being addressed by legal counsel,'' the statement concluded.
Avery met with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell on Tuesday in Toronto to discuss his altercation with Tucker, and both players and teams were fined by Campbell later in the day.
The Rangers were given a $25,000 fine, while the Maple Leafs were hit with a $10,000 penalty. Avery will have to pay $2,500, and Tucker was slapped with a $1,000 fine.
The pregame confrontation seemed to be sparked by Avery, who was yelling at Tucker before shoving Blake, who is playing while being treated for his illness. Tucker then slashed Avery before they got face-to-face in a heated exchange.
A week earlier, Avery - just back from a 10-game absence because of a shoulder injury - was involved in another pregame skirmish when he jawed at New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. Devils forward David Clarkson stepped in then.
``The unprofessional conduct of Avery in initiating this altercation, less than a week after being involved in an incident in the pregame warmup against New Jersey, is the basis for this discipline,'' Campbell said. ``Tucker also bears some responsibility for his inappropriate response.
``Both organizations must also be held accountable for the players' actions.''
The longtime adversaries, known as much for their agitating abilities as their on-ice prowess, were sent off together in the first period for unsportsmanlike conduct and fought 8 seconds after they left the penalty box.
Avery and Tucker continued to jaw at each other while serving their penalties.
``He has no sense of class and you know, what goes around comes around in this game, eventually,'' Tucker said Monday.
This is not the first time Avery has been accused of making inflammatory remarks.
The brash forward received a league reprimand in September 2005 when he made derogatory comments about French-Canadian players after then-Phoenix defenseman Denis Gauthier hit former Kings teammate Jeremy Roenick in an exhibition game. Avery issued an apology.
``There are some things that should never be said, especially when it has to do with someone's well-being or someone is ailing with something,'' Roenick said Tuesday. ``That's hard enough as it is without having to deal with banter.
``Obviously somebody's ethnic background, or their religion or just their race, there is no need for that.''
During a game against Edmonton the next month, then Oilers forward Georges Laraque, who is black, accused Avery of using a racial slur. Avery denied the allegation.
Avery also was outspoken a few months later when he received a fine for diving during a game. He complained about the punishment, which resulted from a second offense, and drew a second $1,000 fine. He suggested that the NHL singled him out because of his earlier comments.
As part of his protest to the diving fine, Avery chastised union members on the league's competition committee for agreeing to such penalties that aren't subject to appeal in the collective bargaining agreement.
Avery also caused a stir in April 2006 with an obscenity-laced tirade at Anaheim Ducks television commentator Brian Hayward.
``He definitely toes the line closely, but to understand him is to know him,'' Roenick said. ``He lives and breathes off of the way he energizes himself. ... You don't have to agree with it, but that's what gets him going.
``It's unfortunate because he is a tremendous, tremendous, hockey player with a lot of talent that does a lot of good things for a team.''
Avery was acquired by the Rangers from the Kings last February and provided a key spark in New York's run to the second round of the playoffs.
He and Tucker also fought late last season during a game at Madison Square Garden.
``Darcy has always been a whiner,'' Avery said after the April 1 game. ``You say you don't like his hair and he'll be upset.''
Tucker declined to get into a verbal fight then.
``I'm going to take the high road in this one,'' Tucker said. ``He is what he is. He'll have a comeback for everything.''

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