You might say that Sean Avery is the human equivalent of jock itch. It's his job, as the baddest badass in the National Hockey League, to annoy his opponents, to get under their skin—anything to gain an edge. Like the time he painted his fingernails black. "It was an experiment to see what a guy would do when he saw a fist coming at him and the nails are painted," he says. Or the time he turned his back on a game against New Jersey so he could wave his arms to block goalie Martin Brodeur's view and glare at him like a jackal. "I still remember the look on his face," says Avery. "I think at that point he thought I was officially out of my f–––ing mind." The NHL promptly outlawed that kind of diversionary tactic in what is now called "the Avery Rule." "I only got to do it once," he says, "but it was a good once."
If you met Avery on the street, though, you'd never guess he likes to get bloody. Quite the opposite. He may be the most hated guy in the NHL, but he's hands down its best-dressed player, too, with taste that runs to Alexander McQueen, Dries van Noten, Gucci and white patent-leather Saint Laurent shoes. Plenty of athletes are also known for being fashion plates: David Beckham, Roger Federer, Greg Norman. But Avery is cut from a different cloth, and not just because those guys are gentlemen and he's a professional jerk. His real passion is women's fashion—appreciating it, not wearing it. He started as a mini-clotheshorse growing up outside Toronto and gradually developed a taste for couture. With men's fashion, "you do suits and pants and that's about that," he says. "Women's clothes tell a story. That's what's interesting to me." Even though he left the New York Rangers to play for Dallas this year, Avery still makes it back to Manhattan for Fashion Week—he sat between Martha Stewart and Winona Ryder at the fall's Marc Jacobs show. He even spent the summer doing an internship at Vogue. "When you see a guy walking out of a game with a broken nose and a busted lip and two days later you see him at a Vera Wang show, it's probably confusing to some people," he says. "Or intriguing."
So intriguing that New Line has commissioned a screenplay based on his double life. It's sort of "The Devil Wears Prada" with skates and brawls. "I think it's going to be something that guys can take their girls to," says Avery, who envisions fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling playing him. His internship provided plenty of fish-out-of-ice stories. During one of his first trips to the magazine's cafeteria, he took too much food—making him the first Vogue staffer to do that—and promptly spilled beef stroganoff on a horrified woman. The fashion world is with him when he plays, too. On the road he travels with a big bag to hold his favorite magazines: American Vogue, French Vogue, British Vogue, V, V Men. The ribbing from the guys, of course, can get ugly. "They call me a fag, and I laugh," he says. "It's so narrow-minded and stereotypical." And unwise. If you make Sean Avery mad, you might get a fistful of black nail polish.