Ray Emery’s Inspirational Re-Emergence


Who would have thought when the Ottawa Senators bought out Ray Emery following the 2007-08 season, that the roller coaster ride that was Ray Emery’s career was just getting started?


You all know the story.  Emery was the first home-grown goalie to make an impact in a Senators uniform.  He came in with a swagger and attitude that exuded confidence.  He was forced into duty late in the 2006 season after Dominik Hasek‘s adductor injury forced him out of the lineup from the Olympic break onwards.  Emery gained kudos for stepping in and performing admirably in the wake of Hasek’s loss, but it was the next season when he gained notoriety as he took the starting job from newcomer Martin Gerber and became a full fledged rock-star in the Nation’s Capital. His play on the ice was turning heads, and nothing elevated him in fans’ minds more than the Feb 22/2007 Game with the Buffalo Sabres, where he fought both Martin Biron and Andrew Peters on the same stoppage in play.  At that point Emery was second to only Daniel Alfredsson in popularity, and he owned this town.  Leading the Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals, it appeared that the Senators might finally have the Franchise goalie that fans had been waiting on for so long.

Perhaps the notoriety went to his head as he started making some poor decisions off the ice.  It seemed that he was starting to think he was bigger than the team, and he developed a reputation for partying and started missing or being late for practices, missed a team flight due to a traffic altercation, and got into practice battles with teammates.  After a disappointing 2007-08 season, his antics were no longer deemed tolerable and he was bought out of the last two years of his contract.


Unable to find a job in the NHL, Emery left for the KHL, where he played one season, and was a solid performer  on the ice.  He again garnered headlines off the ice first when he got into a confrontation with a team trainer who tried to get an angry Emery to put on a sponsor’s cap on the bench after being pulled from a game.  It didn’t appear as though he had learned his lesson about managing his anger and attitude.  He then left the club in a salary dispute as he thought he should be making more than he was, due to currency evaluation.


Emery’s play in Russia was good enough to get him a job back in the NHL, with the other team starving for a top-flight goaltender, the Philadelphia Flyers.   After a relatively strong start, injuries caught up with Emery, and he was forced out of the lineup with a career-threatening hip injury.


He was diagnosed with a disease called avascular necrosis, where the interruption of blood supply causes bone tissue to die.  He had to have a bone graft from his lower leg to his hip.  After months of recovery and painful rehab, he was finally ready to take back to the ice in search of a place to resume his career.  The recovery is astounding as the injury is the same one that forced mulit-sport star Bo Jackson’s early retirement.


After much searching, Emery finally found a team willing to take a chance on him.  The Anaheim Ducks took a flyer on the former Flyer and signed him to a 1 year, 2 way contract in February, for the league minimum.  He started in the AHL, but an injury to starter Jonas Hiller paved the way for Emery to get called up.  Even after the call-up he was shunned in favor of newly acquired Dan Ellis, but when he finally got his chance, Emery has stepped to the plate big time.  In 7 games (6 starts) he is 6-0-0 with a miniscule 1.90 GAA and an impressive .940 save percentage.


I don’t know what the future holds for Ray Emery.  He should be able to get an NHL job next season based on his play down the stretch this season for a playoff team.  How much work he gets will depend on Hiller’s recovery, and that will determine how many auditions he gets.  A starter’s job might be asking too much, but a backup role with a chance at competing for a #1 job might be the best he can hope for.  But given what he has gone through and the roller coaster that has been his career to date, I wouldn’t doubt for a second if he surprised everyone again and became the top level goaltender the Senators were hoping for when they signed him to the contract extension after the Finals appearance.

Either way, his return is inspirational and I wish him all the best wherever the future takes him.  Except when he plays against the Senators.

Please check out a great article from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail about his recovery and return to action HERE.


Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.

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