Raymond Robert Emery (né Nichols; September 28, 1982 – July 15, 2018) was a Canadian professional ice hockey goaltender who played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for eleven seasons. Emery was chosen 99th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. During the 2006–07 season, he was a member of the Senators team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals, the first appearance in the finals for the modern Senators' franchise. He won a Stanley Cup championship with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.
In 2013, Emery won the William M. Jennings Trophy along with teammate Corey Crawford, awarded to the goaltender or goaltenders who give up the fewest goals in the season. Emery was a two-time Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy finalist for his dedication and perseverance. His teammates and fans often referred to him as "Razor" or "Sugar Ray" for his aggressive playing style.
Emery was born Raymond Robert Nichols on September 28, 1982 in Hamilton, Ontario. His mother, Sharlene worked as an overhead crane operator at a Dofasco steel mill when she became pregnant at 20. His biological father had no interest in raising a child, and abandoned them. In 1984, Sharlene met Paul Emery whom she married in 1986. He was adopted by Paul and took his surname shortly afterwards. Emery had two younger brothers, Andrew and Nicholas. The family lived in a century-old farmhouse near the town of Cayuga.
Emery excelled in school, and was offered a scholarship. He played many sports other than ice hockey, including golf, baseball, and soccer. In hockey, he originally played as a defenceman, but switched to goaltender at nine years old due to a shortage of goaltenders in his league.
Emery committed to hockey on the advice of his mother, after a potential scholarship during his pursuit for higher education pushed him to take advantage of his athletic ability. At 16 years old, Emery landed with the Ontario Junior Hockey League Junior C Dunnville Terriers after unsuccessfully trying out for eight different junior teams. Emery was named the league's Rookie of the Year.
The Ontario Hockey League (OHL)'s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds drafted Emery in the fifth round of the 1999 OHL Draft. Emery split the 1999–2000 season between the Welland Cougars of the OHA and the Greyhounds in the OHL. In 2000–01, he played with the Greyhounds. During his last season in junior hockey, 2001–02, Emery gained notoriety for his fighting ability. He was named the OHL's Goaltender of the Year, setting a record of 33 wins and a GAA of 2.73.
Emery was selected in the fourth round, 99th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. In 2002–03, Emery joined the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League (AHL) and immediately assumed the position of starting goaltender for his first professional season with the team. He was named to the AHL All-Star team, made the league's all-rookie team and became Binghamton's MVP.
Emery was suspended twice for on-ice incidents in the same season, once for bumping a referee which resulted in a three-game suspension; the second time for an altercation with Denis Hamel of the Rochester Americans who admitted uttering a racial slur. Emery retaliated and was suspended for three games. Emery and Hamel later became teammates in Binghamton, and Hamel apologized "for not thinking about what [he] was saying, in the heat of a game".
Ottawa Senators (2005–2008)
Emery began his NHL career with the Ottawa Senators in 2005–06. He set a record for wins to start an NHL goaltending career, winning his first nine games, moving ahead of Bob Froese who had won his first eight games in the 1982–83 season. In March of the same season, Emery won twelve games, tying Bernie Parent's 1974 record for the most wins in a month.
At the beginning of the 2005–06 season, Emery had won nine straight games during the regular season as the back-up to Dominik Hašek. When Hašek injured his groin during the 2006 Winter Olympics, Emery became Ottawa's de facto starter, with Mike Morrison, claimed off of waivers from the Edmonton Oilers, as Emery's backup. Emery was the starting goaltender for the rest of the season, leading the Senators to the second round of the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs.
After the 2005–06 season, the Senators opted not to bring back Hašek, instead acquiring Martin Gerber to compete with Emery for the starter position. Gerber was the starter at the beginning of the season, but due to his poor play, Emery replaced him in mid-November. On February 10, 2007, Emery was suspended for three games from the NHL for striking Montreal Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre in the face with his stick after Lapierre crashed into Emery's net.
Twelve days later, after his suspension had ended, Emery was involved in a fight between the Senators and the Buffalo Sabres. He and Sabres goaltender Martin Biron left their creases to fight each other. After this was finished, Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters grabbed Emery and connected with ten hard punches to the head; Emery did not directly punch Peters. Both goaltenders received game misconducts, and Emery had the rare feat (for a goaltender) of receiving two five-minute majors for fighting in the same incident. In total, Emery received 22 penalty minutes (two five-minute majors for fighting, a two-minute minor for leaving the crease and the 10-minute game misconduct) for this altercation. After the altercation, fans and media dubbed him "Sugar Ray" in reference to retired boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and Emery's reputation as a fighter. Then-teammate Brian McGrattan opined that if Emery were a position player and not a goalie, he would likely rank among the top five fighters in the NHL.
Prior to the 2007 playoffs, Emery and the Senators won 5–2 against Montreal on March 30, 2007, which was his 100th NHL game. Emery's strong play in the season continued in the playoffs, as the Senators defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres each in five-game series en route to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since the team was founded in 1992, where the Senators ultimately lost to the Anaheim Ducks in five games. He became a restricted free agent after the end of the season and filed for salary arbitration, later agreeing to a three-year deal with the Senators worth C$9.5 million before the hearings were held.
By the pre-season of the 2007–08 campaign, Emery had suffered a wrist injury that limited him to just 40 minutes of the pre-season and forced him to miss several games early in the Senators' season. On April 18, 2008, Murray announced to the media in an end-of-season press conference that Emery would not return to the Senators for the 2008–09 season. On June 20, 2008, Emery was waived by the Senators; he cleared waivers three days later and became a free agent as a result.
Atlant Moscow (2008–2009)
Emery signed a one-year, $2 million contract with Atlant Moscow Oblast of the newly formed Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) on July 9, 2008. After giving up five goals during a game, he chased a trainer who attempted to put a sponsored cap on Emery's head. As a foreign goaltender, Emery was allowed to play in only 65% of his team's 56 regular season games due to rules that encourage the development of Russian goaltenders. He split duties for the season with former Colorado Avalanche goaltender Vitaly Kolesnik and completed the season as a top goaltender in the KHL with a .926 save percentage and a 1.86 GAA.
Philadelphia Flyers (2009–2010)
On June 10, 2009, the Philadelphia Flyers announced that they had agreed to terms with Emery on a one-year contract worth $1.5 million. On December 8, Emery was placed on injured reserve to have surgery on a torn muscle in his abdomen. Originally expected to miss about six weeks, the prognosis changed when it was discovered that he had avascular necrosis of the hip. In March 2010, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced that Emery would be out for the remainder of the season due to the diagnosis and that a bone graft would be carried out.
Doctors were able to catch the disease before it spread, unlike the case of baseball and American football player Bo Jackson. As a result, in April, doctors announced a successful surgery. Jackson spoke out about Emery, speculating that they were the only two athletes to come back after the disease. Jackson added, "I take my hat off [to him]. I want him to know I am in his corner. It's a lot of hard work. To come back and play, it takes a very, very special and driven person. He's got a different makeup to want to do all the little things he needs to compete on a professional level." Unlike Jackson, who required numerous hip replacements, Emery had the benefit of advancements in modern medicine, undergoing a very specialized and complex procedure that involved removing 13 centimetres from his right fibula, and then grafting it to the femur to re-introduce a proper blood supply to the area. Holmgren said that while the surgery went better than expected, he did not know exactly how long Emery's recovery would take.
On July 1, Emery became an unrestricted free agent as his injury deemed him unable to play until he recuperated. In August, he was given the go-ahead to begin the grueling and tedious workout and rehabilitation process. In November 2010, TSN visited Emery during an on-ice workout and were surprised to see him get down into the butterfly position and play for the first time since surgery. Emery stated that he did not "care if [he could] walk in seven years", and he "just [wanted] to play". To the surprise of his doctors and trainers, Emery recovered faster than expected. In January 2011, Emery began skating with an OHL team, taking shots and training with Eric Lindros, and working with personal trainer Matt Nichol and goalie coach Eli Wilson. According to Wilson, Emery was "as sharp and ready now as he was the summer before Ottawa's Stanley Cup Final run".
In March 2011, Emery's injury and undefeated return to the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks garnered much media attention and fascination, with a special segment featured on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. Emery had 13 centimetres of bone missing from his leg. This later garnered him a nomination for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
Anaheim Ducks (2011)
On February 7, 2011, four NHL teams showed interest in signing Emery before he signed a one-year two-way contract with the Anaheim Ducks. He was then assigned to the Syracuse Crunch to begin the standard two-week conditioning AHL stint where he went on to play a total of five games for the Crunch in their 2010–11 season, posting a 4–1–0 record, with a 1.98 GAA and a .943 save percentage. On February 23, 2011, upon completion of his conditioning stint, Emery was called up to the Ducks. Emery made his Ducks debut on March 11, 2011, to a standing ovation against the Phoenix Coyotes when he replaced goaltender Dan Ellis. Emery won six straight starts to open his Anaheim career, falling one shy of matching the Ducks' record for consecutive wins by a goaltender, held by Guy Hebert. In the week of March 14, Emery was honoured with the NHL's Second Star of the Week after going 2–0–0 with a 0.99 GAA and a .968 save percentage.
Emery led the Ducks into the playoffs, finishing tied for fourth in the league and posting a 7–2–0 record with 2.28 GAA and .926 save percentage in ten regular-season NHL appearances. In April, Emery's comeback was recognized when the Anaheim chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association (PHWA) nominated Emery for the 2011 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The NHL also nominated Emery for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, making him one of three finalists.
Chicago Blackhawks (2011–2013)
On October 3, 2011 Emery signed a one-year contract for the 2011–12 season with the Chicago Blackhawks after a successful try-out. By the end of the season, Emery compiled a 15–9–4 record and a 2.81 GAA in 34 regular-season appearances, posting a 10–0–3 record and a 2.15 GAA in 16 appearances at Chicago's United Center. Emery was again nominated, this time by the Blackhawks, for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, honouring dedication and perseverance. In April 2012, the Blackhawks signed Emery to a one-year extension worth $1.15 million to keep him with the team into the 2012–13 season.
Emery made NHL history in March 2013 by becoming the first goaltender to start a season with ten straight wins, going 10–0–0. He improved his NHL record to eleven straight wins against the Colorado Avalanche on March 18. Emery went to 12–0–0 in a shutout win against the Calgary Flames, in his 200th NHL start. On April 10, he made franchise history by recording his third shutout in five games, helping him to third in the NHL with a 1.90 GAA and seventh in save percentage at .924 with a 15–1–0 record. Emery proved his previous injuries were no longer a concern, posting career highs.
In April 2013, Emery and teammate Corey Crawford won the award for the NHL's best combined GAA, the 2013 William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender who gives up the fewest goals in the season. Emery finished the season with a 1.94 GAA, a .922 save percentage, and 17 wins. He won his first Stanley Cup when the Blackhawks defeated the Boston Bruins in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.
Return to Philadelphia (2013–2015)
On July 5, 2013, Emery signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers worth $1.65 million. With the Flyers, Emery served as the backup to regular goaltender Steve Mason. On November 1, Emery participated in a brawl against the Capitals, fighting opposing goaltender Braden Holtby, who was uninterested in fighting. For the season, he was 9–12–2 with a 2.96 GAA in 28 appearances. On July 1, 2014, he re-signed for another year in the same role for $1 million. In 31 appearances with the Flyers in the 2014–15 season, Emery had a 10–11–7 record and a 3.06 GAA, and his save percentage was under .900.
On September 8, 2015, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that Emery would be attending training camp on a PTO (professional tryout). During the preseason he was released from this PTO on September 27. In October and November 2015, Emery trained with the Ontario Reign of the AHL, affiliate to the Los Angeles Kings. It was announced on December 18, 2015, that Emery had signed a professional tryout agreement with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League (AHL), who are associated with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Emery was praised for his leadership and mentoring abilities; on January 24, 2016, upon Crawford recording his league-leading seventh shutout of the season with the Blackhawks after a win against the Blues, he credited Emery for turning around his work habits. Crawford stated that Emery's work habits led him to increase his focus and preparation before a game and during practice. "As a goalie, I've never seen a guy be so focused and ready for a game", Crawford said. "I was kind of doing the opposite – being nonchalant and doing other stuff and not having a routine. You get in that physical routine that just makes you ready mentally. You trick yourself into knowing that it's game time and time to play." Kyle Dubas, assistant GM of the Marlies, cited Emery for his mentorship towards the team.
On February 5, 2016, Emery signed with Adler Mannheim of the German elite league Deutsche Eishockey Liga for the remainder of the season, thus ending his professional tryout with the Marlies. On March 29, he signed a tryout contract with the Flyers, and on April 1, the team announced that it had signed Emery for the remainder of the season. At the end of the season, Emery retired from the NHL.
Emery was a fan favorite and a celebrated fighter in the NHL because it was rare for a goaltender to fight. Emery was a boxing fan and had images of Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins, Mike Tyson and the fictional Rocky Balboa on his helmets.
Emery's erratic behavior was the subject of much speculation by the press during his tenure with the Ottawa Senators. Reports concerning Emery included a road rage incident involving a senior citizen, a car accident that led to a missed flight to a road game, lateness to practice, a stick-smashing incident during practice, fights with teammates during practice, and rumored alcohol abuse. In 2008, the media speculated that Emery was involved with a bad crowd and recreational drugs. When asked about this speculation, Emery responded, "I'm not a saint and I'm not in jail, either." At one point, Emery was asked by the team's general manager whether he had a drug problem; Emery responded in the negative. Paddock later expressed regret on how Emery was handled in Ottawa; he was partially responsible for signing Emery to the Flyers, where they worked together from 2013 to 2016.
In January 2009, a video surfaced of Emery trying to chase and punch a team trainer while the trainer was attempting to place a hat on his head in January 2009. In 2011, Emery stated that he had learned from his past mistakes and that he had undergone anger management classes as well as eight weeks of behavioural counselling.
In June 2010, Emery began dating Canadian singer Keshia Chanté, and starred as the love interest in Chanté's music video for "Test Drive". On June 16, 2016, Emery proposed to Chanté on her birthday in Nassau, Bahamas. Emery and Chanté were set to wed in June 2017; however, simultaneously with the release of her cover on Today's Bride, Chanté announced via her Instagram account that she had called off the wedding. On September 18, 2017, Chanté advised TMZ that she went to police seeking a restraining order against Emery. TMZ advises Emery was arrested for allegedly uttering threats and assaulting her with a weapon. It is unknown if Emery was convicted.
In March 2007, Emery was charged after a minor crash while heading to the airport; the accident forced him to miss a team-chartered flight to a road game. In September 2007, he had a much-publicized road rage incident with a 65-year-old man; Emery was accused of cutting off the man's vehicle on the highway and threatening to kill him. No charges were laid.
In February 2008, Ottawa police pulled Emery over. He had allegedly cut off a police cruiser with his Hummer. Police said that he was aggressive with officers. In March 2009, he was charged with stunt driving for allegedly having driven 50 km/h (31 mph) or more over the posted speed limit. Police impounded his Hummer. He appeared on TSN's Off the Record with Michael Landsberg, saying that, at the time, his Hummer had been pulled over at least 30 times.
On July 15, 2018, Emery went swimming with friends at the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club in Hamilton, Ontario. He jumped off a boat and friends called emergency services at approximately 6:00 am when he did not resurface. His body was found at about 2:50 pm that same day, about 18 metres (20 yd) from where he went into the water, according to Hamilton Police, who referred to the incident as a "case of misadventure". The search for Emery took longer than anticipated due to unspecified safety concerns for the dive team before they could enter the water. An autopsy indicated that Emery had drowned, and police concluded their investigation as "non-criminal".
On July 16, Keshia Chanté penned an emotional tribute to Emery, stating that she was "heartbroken" and that he was "a superhero" who was "loving, affectionate, intelligent, hilarious, giving". She also stated that they "may have had differences" but they "forgave each other and continued to love each other right to the very end."
On October 15, 2018, prior to a game against the Dallas Stars, the Senators presented a tribute for Emery. Among those present were his close friend Jason Spezza, who was playing for the Stars, and Chanté, who sang the national anthems.
|1999–00||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHL||16||9||3||0||716||36||1||3.02||.908|
|2000–01||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHL||52||18||29||2||2938||174||1||3.55||.904|
|2001–02||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHL||59||33||17||9||3477||158||4||2.73||.914|
|2008–09||Atlant Moscow Oblast||KHL||36||22||8||0||2070||73||0||1.86||.926|
|1999–00||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHL||15||8||7||883||33||3||2.24||.926|
|2001–02||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHL||6||2||4||360||19||1||3.16||.925|
|2008–09||Atlant Moscow Oblast||KHL||7||3||3||419||13||0||1.86||.941|
Statistics via Eliteprospects