Emery’s swan song for the Crunch was Tuesday night, when he stopped 34 of 37 shots against Charlotte. He denied three of the four skaters he faced in a shootout to lift the Crunch to a 4-3 win over the Checkers.
“My hip feels great. I’m excited about that,” said Emery, who was 2-1 for the Crunch. “The body feels pretty good considering I’m jumping in halfway through the year. I feel like it’ll only get better.”
Four years ago, Emery, one of the few black goaltenders in NHL history, was at the top of his game. Chosen 99th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2001 draft, Emery made the big club full time in 2005-06. The next season, he won 33 games.
He also racked up 30 minutes in penalties, which included a memorable fight with former Sabres goalie Martin Biron. Emery kept smiling as he threw punch after punch.
But he’s most remembered for leading the Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup finals. He recorded three shutouts in 20 playoff games before losing the final series to the Ducks.
Success was fleeting, though.
The following season, Emery began showing up late for practice, had scraps with teammates, and lost his starting job. Rumors surfaced that he was partying hard, enjoying the good life too much, hanging out with the wrong crowd. The flashy clothes and exotic cars only added to that perception.
Former Senators coach John Paddock said the team tried everything, to no avail. Emery was waived in June 2008.
Less than a month later, he signed a one-year contract to play in Russia. But it didn’t take long for that journey to feature another altercation _ a fight with a team trainer after a bad outing.
“Razor Ray” still seemed to be the same guy who was involved in four on-ice fights in his second season in juniors with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The guy who was named to the AHL’s all-rookie team in 2001-02, but was suspended twice for on-ice outbursts. The goalie who was suspended for three games for a stick attack on Michel Ouellet, and three more for retaliating against Denis Hamel after a racial slur.
Keep in mind, Emery is a devotee of boxing. And he is still wearing one of the helmets he donned in Philadelphia _ the one featuring the painted images of Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins and the fictional Rocky Balboa.
But, perhaps, you won’t see that passion played out on the ice anymore. Especially since he has acquired professional help through therapy.
“What’s done in his past is past,” Syracuse coach Mark Holick said. “He’s been in the heat of the battle. He’s been in the Stanley Cup playoffs and Stanley Cup finals. He’s a guy we can all learn a lot from the way he carries himself.”
At 28, Emery is well aware this might be his last chance in the NHL. Win or lose, at least he gave it one last shot.
“I’m comfortable with myself away from the game,” he said. “I love playing the game, and I wouldn’t want to give it up for anything. But at the same time, it’s not the end of the world and I took it like that.