After the tragic passing of former NHL goalie Ray Emery, I’ve had memories coming back to me about seeing him in an Ottawa Senators jersey. A common combatant in the Battle of Ontario during his many years in Ottawa, Emery had a swagger about him that you just had to respect. It isn’t often that a goalie could exude such a presence on the ice, but when you and all the other players out there know you can kick everyone’s asses, you get a little more respect from your opposition.
Respect; for me, it’s something I have for Ottawa. Maybe not their current ownership, maybe not their shaggy headed former captain’s antics, and maybe not for their enforcer Chis Neil’s gaptoothed face yipping away at the end of inevitably losing a fight, but on the whole I can respect a team that has rivalled the Leafs over the years. And this respect for my team’s rival is why I love Ray Emery – because he pumped and embarrassed a Leaf’s rival I don’t respect – the Buffalo Sabres.
I don’t know why, but I just don’t like them; always cocky with nothing to show for it Buffalo seems to be more bark than bite in the NHL. Thats why I took incredible joy in watching Emery throw with Marty Biron and laugh in the face of Sabre’s enforcer Andrew Peters.
In his first game back from a three game suspension Emery joined in on a good old fashion line brawl grabbing the Sabres goalie Biron and beating the pulp out of him. Emery was an avid boxing fan to the point of having the nickname “Sugar Ray” and a depiction of Mike Tyson on his mask – this should have been a warning to the Sabres. Once Biron was dispatched with the towering Peters broke free from his fight and squared up with Emery to protect his goalie who was haphazardly lining up for a second ass beating.
With his reach barred by his chest protector, and his arms no where near Peters’ length Emery smiled in the face of his opponent and took some hard knocks. That is the indelible image I’ll always have in my head of Ray Emery, him staring down a monster and smiling in the face of adversity.
The NHL and it’s players are mourning the loss of a well liked, highly respected, and incredibly inspirational goalie from their ranks. He battled through the CHL to make the league, through self-inflicted suspensions, personal life issues, he reestablished himself in Europe to get back in the NHL. His biggest battle came from a hip condition that not only looked like it would end his NHL career, but also his ability to walk normally. Ray overcame this adversity, too.
Emery constantly battled, not dissimilarly to a boxer, and round after round he came back for more. As a Leaf fan I could never forget Emery for his inclusion in the Battle of Ontario, and as a hockey fan I’ll remember his massive presence and perseverance.
Rest in Peace Ray.