Despite 0-2 Hole, Emery Is Still Carrying Ottawa

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: June 1, 2007

CALIFORNIA — The 2007 Stanley Cup Finals began this past Monday, the latest in National Hockey League history. The winner will be crowned in the second week of June, the NBA Championship will be crowned and Major League Baseball will be at their midway point of the season.

The Eastern Conference Champion Ottawa Senators are down 0-2 to the Western Conference Champion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Prior to this series, the two teams have not played each other in more then 16 months.

With the new NHL imbalance schedule teams don’t see each other when they are a coast away. My favorite team the New Jersey Devils played the San Jose Sharks this past fall for the first time in three years. This is not fair for true east coast hockey fans living on the west coast. But the playoffs move on.

The Senators remind me of the 2000 version of the late 90′s Stanley Cup Champion Devils. Both New Jersey and Ottawa had to return to the Eastern Conference finals many times to finally gain respect throughout the league. Both teams use the famous left wing lock defense.

This defense stymies high powered offenses because defenders direct the puck and players to the boards and not in the middle of the ice. The Devils won the cup in 1998, 2000, and 2002 now could it be the Senators turn to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2007 with a black goaltender. It will be 20 years since a person of a darker hue stood in the pipes in a Stanley Cup game.

The Senators are counting on Black Canadian from (Cayuga) Hamilton, Ontario, Canada Ray Emery, an outstanding goal tender to win their first Cup in their young team’s history.

Emery, a fourth-round draft choice for Ottawa in 2001, has worn the black, white, and red Senators uniform his whole carrier. He has improved with each outstanding season but most hockey fans did not notice him until the last three years when the Senators made the Eastern Conference Finals.

In 2002, Emery’s star began to rise with the Canadian Major Junior First All Star team and Canadian Major Junior Hockey All Star Goalie. His stock continued to rise with the American Hockey League Rookie of the Year in 2003 with the Binghamton Senators.

He has had a star crossed career in the Canadian National capitol. In 2005-06 Emery took over the team’s goalie duties when teammate and idol Dominik Hasek went down with a major groin injury.

In 2006-07 the Senators traded for the veteran goalie Martin Gerber from the Carolina Hurricanes, to give Emery rest during the long 81 game season.

Emery has a very unique goalie style combining the tactics from his short lived teammate in ’05-06, The Dominator, Dominik Hasek from the Detroit Red Wings-Buffalo Sabres and Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche and Montreal Canadians.

Emery has more speed then both of this fine gentlemen so Ray stops many pucks that other goalies just can’t stop. He is a very big man and completely fills the nets. His quick hands and feet are his trademark and many young goalies will be copying his style for years to come, just as young goalies mimicked Patrick Roy butterfly style 20 years ago.

One thing I hope young goalies don’t copy is Emery’s anger. His emotions might either help excel his special skills or deter his skills. His fiery temper has gotten him into trouble a few times. He has joined in many hockey brawls with his Ottawa teammates throughout his carrier.

The latest slugfest was with the Buffalo Sabers in February 2007. At the end of this game the referees had a field day throwing out 10 players with seconds left in the game. Emery is the first goalie in history to accumulate 22 penalty minutes for a single fight.

He received a game misconduct, two five minute majors for fighting and two two minute minors for leaving the goalie crease (the little blue oblong circle in front of the goalie net).

If you watch the replay of this brawl you can see Emery smirking while he continues to pound Sabres goalie Martin Biron to the ice. Then he grabbed Buffalo’s designated enforcer and started beating on him, a no-no for goaltenders.

He has also drawn some ire from conservative Senator fans and the National Hockey League officials with his multiple goalie mask pictures of Black professional boxers.

He grew up a boxing fan and wanted to honor them by putting pictures of them on his mask. It was not a bright decision putting troubled boxer Mike Tyson on his mask. He has since put fellow Canadian Boxer George Chuvalo on his mask and it seems all is well in Ottawa.

Emery has lifted the Ottawa Senators this year to the Stanley Cup Finals with his catlike goalie skills. He’s shutout the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabers all during this playoff season.

In the first two games of the finals he kept the Senators in each game with many outstanding saves. The Ducks still won the first two games but Anaheim should have scored at least ten more times in each game.

Ray Emery will always be living in the footsteps of the other famous Black Stanley Cup goalie Grant Fuhr (Edmonton Oilers-St. Louis Blues) and the question will remain can he win six cups like his fellow Black Canadian.

I will be rooting for the Ottawa Senators this June because of Ray Emery and because the Senators look like and play like my home state hockey team New Jersey Devils.