OK, so apparently there's an interest here on the Blog about the catastrophe that is Ottawa Senators goaltender Ray Emery. Personally, I've been trying to ignore it as much as possible, but I guess it's time to sit down and delve into Emery's fall from grace.
Doesn't seem so long ago that he was the king of the castle around here. After stealing the #1 goalie position from Martin Gerber last season, he led the Sens to the Stanley Cup Finals with some stellar goaltending, he was popular for his flashy wardrobe choices, he was teaming up with local rapper Belly on the "Go Sens Go" song - let's face it, Ray was the go-to guy in Ottawa. Our very own crazy celebrity in a town that is too often labelled boring and dull.
Last spring, with the playoff hype in full swing, I went out to buy a Senators t-shirt - the red ones that were really popular, with the big logo on the front and a player's name and number on the back. When I went to get mine, the Sports Experts location was almost sold-out. Of course, they had no Wade Redden ones, so I had to choose between Heatley, Spezza, and Emery.
I chose Emery. Not because I didn't like Spezza or Heatley, but because I thought Ray was the coolest guy in a Sens uniform. And I wanted his name on my tee.
Emery's fast rise to fame last season sort of covered up the past indiscretions that had previously had him in the doghouse of the Sens management. There was the legendary Cockroach Story - when Captain Alfie bet him $500 that he wouldn't eat a cockroach, so he ate it and collected his cash. The blonde hair that quickly disappeared, the rumour being that John Muckler, the Sens GM at the time, disapproved of it. The Mike Tyson-themed goalie mask that also quickly disappeared after a public outcry. Hell, he even got in a fender-bender while rushing to catch a flight for Game 5 in New Jersey in the Eastern Conference semi-finals last season, stopped to sign autographs for the fans that gathered on the shoulder of the road, and subsequently missed his flight - it certainly didn't go over well with the team at the time, but he took a commercial flight, won that game, ending the series, so all was forgiven.
In the off-season, he signed a big 3-year contract, had surgery to repair his injured wrist that bothered him all last season, and prepared to return as the Sens #1 goalie.
But things haven't quite gone as planned. First, there was the Road Rage Story that hit papers during camp, which involved Emery having an altercation with a gentleman who claimed Emery cut him off on the Queensway, and the men then exchanged heated words. He also missed most of the camp, because his wrist took longer to heal than expected, and while he was still recovering, the Sens jumped out to an amazing 16-3 start to the season, thanks in large part to the exceptional play of "back-up" Martin Gerber. He was late for practice one day in late December, and while the team tried to cover it up by saying Emery wasn't feeling well, he fessed up that he'd slept in and was told to "beat it" by Coach John Paddock. There was also the practice where he threw a hissy fit and threw his stick into the stands and knocked over a bunch of water bottles. And then came the fight in practice with tough guy Brian McGrattan.
His work ethic has been called into question by the coaching staff and Daniel Alfredsson.
And I won't even get into all the rumours of his partying and wild lifestyle off the ice.
Now, the latest offence: he was late for practice on Monday after spending the All-Star break in Las Vegas, claiming his flight was late and he thought practice was being held somewhere else. Paddock didn't allow him on the ice, and he has since been fined one day's pay.
Emery is calling it an honest mistake. Whether it was or not doesn't really matter. The fact is, he's been on thin ice for a while, so he really should be taking extra care to be on time and work hard. How is that it's always his flights that are late? Why is he always the one who didn't know where practice was? How can 20 other guys manage to figure it out, and he can't?
The sideshow he has become is getting a bit old. It's not funny to hear about his disruptions anymore. He's not smooth and cool anymore. He's turning into a joke, and nobody's laughing. He's on a team that has been lauded as a Cup Contender from the first puck-drop of the season, yet somehow, his crazy antics are grabbing more headlines than anything else. It's grown tiresome; it's not cool.
I'd like Ray Emery to go back to the guy he was last year, when he was all about flash, style & winning. When he was the guy who's name I wanted on the back of my shirt.
However, I fear for Emery that it's already too late.