Former NHL Goaltender Ray Emery Dies At 35
Former NHL goaltender Ray Emery has died at the age of 35, following an accident in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario.
Hamilton Police responded to a call shortly after 6am on Sunday morning following reports of an adult swimmer failing to resurface, with the Emery later identified as the victim. An autopsy held on Monday confirmed his cause of death as drowning.
Emery had played in the Hockey Night in Hamilton charity game on Saturday evening, helping to raise funds for Food4Kids, and remained active in the hockey community following his effective retirement in 2016, volunteering his time as a coach at the Eli Wilson clinics in Toronto every year.
Selected in the fourth round (99th overall) of the 2001 NHL Draft by Ottawa Senators, Emery made his NHL debut on January 8th 2003 in a 6-4 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, relieving starter Patrick Lalime for the final 9 minutes and 46 seconds of play.
The former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound would go on to make his full debut later that season, stopping 14 shots in a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.
In total, Emery spent five seasons with the Senators, back stopping them to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, where they were defeated by Anaheim in five-games.
“On behalf of the Ottawa Senators, I wish to express my sincere condolences on the passing of Ray Emery,” owner Eugene Melnyk said in a statement. “Ray was instrumental in our run to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, and at his best he brought a competitive edge and combative mentality to the game. On behalf of our entire organization, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to Ray’s family, friends and loved ones.”
Despite enjoying that run to the Stanley Cup Final, and signing a new three-year contract as an RFA during the summer of 2007, the relationship between Emery and the Senators had already become increasingly strained by the end of the 2006/07 season, with a number of off ice incidents seeing Emery in the headlines.
The decision was eventually taken to buy out the remaining two years of the contract following the 2007/08 season.
With NHL opportunities limited, the then 25-year-old signed a one-year deal with KHL side Atlant Mytishchi and began to seek help to address the off ice issues which had seen his relationship with the Senators sour.
Emery would later tell ESPN’s Scott Burnside “I’m not a saint and I’m not in jail, either. I think I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I didn’t feel comfortable. I got myself into some bad ways. It took some time to clear my head.”
A high profile clash with an Atlant team trainer left many believing Emery’s live wire nature would continue to derail his career, but a contract offer from Philadelphia paved the way for a North American return ahead of the 2009/10 season.
It proved to be a pivotal season for Emery, not for his play on the ice but for what kept him off it.
— Bernie Parent (@BernieParent1) July 15, 2018
After missing six weeks following surgery to repair torn abdominal muscles in December 2009, Emery continued to suffer from discomfort in his right hip, and was later diagnosed with avascular necrosis – the same condition which ended Bo Jackson’s NFL career.
With the ball at the top of his hip completely deteriorated, it appeared Emery’s own career was also over; but the man nicknamed ‘Razor’ would go on to make a remarkable comeback; signing with Anaheim just over a year later following surgery – which included the removal of 13cm of bone from his leg – and a gruelling rehabilitation process.
Emery described his first game for the Ducks – a relief effort in place Dan Ellis against Arizona on March 13th 2011 – as like making his NHL debut all over again.
After posting a .926 save percentage in ten games for Anaheim – also starting five of their six playoff games and earning a Masterton Trophy nomination – Emery was invited to the Chicago Blackhawks training camp that summer, earning a one-year contract as backup to Corey Crawford.
Following a successful first year in the Windy City, which garnered another nomination for the Masteron Trophy, Emery signed a one-year extension with the Blackhawks and went on to become the first NHL goaltender to start a year 12-0-0, sharing the Jennings Trophy with Crawford.
The year would get even better for Emery and the Blackhawks, as the organisation went on to win its second Stanley Cup in the space of four years.
I will always remember Ray as a good person first & foremost. I envied his demeanor. He had a contagious personality. People were drawn to him. I made close friendships bc of him @DaveBolland I will never forget his selflessness. Man this hurts. Rest easy Uncle Ray Ray pic.twitter.com/hWsl9SNVwE
— Daniel Carcillo (@CarBombBoom13) July 15, 2018
Emery returned to Philadelphia as a free agent during the summer of 2013, forming a partnership with Steve Mason in the Flyers net, though the success he found in Chicago did not follow him back to Pennsylvania – finishing the season with a 9-12-2 record and .903 save percentage, as well as becoming involved in the now infamous clash with Washington’s Braden Holtby.
Despite those struggles, the Flyers re-signed Emery to another one-year deal during the summer of 2014; though on-ice performances did not improve, leading to a .894 save percentage in 31 games played.
Emery continued to seek an NHL position after leaving the Flyers, attending the Tampa Bay Lightning’s training camp in September 2015, as well as having short stints with the AHL Ontario Reign and Toronto Marlies before being offered an opportunity in Europe with DEL side Adler Mannheim, where he would play his final professional game.
Tributes have come in from across the hockey world following the news of his death, with long time agent JP Barry among those to speak publicly following Sunday’s news:
“Ray had many highs and lows in his personal life and his career. He never let things that would derail most of us stop his forward momentum. He had a big heart and a fun loving personality. He was someone we all rooted for to succeed.”