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The Ottawa Senators advanced to this year’s Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in team history and goaltender Ray Emery is a big reason why.
After splitting throughout early this season with Martin Gerber, Emery was named full-time goalie in November and recorded 33 of the team’s 48 wins, including five shutouts.
During this postseason, he raised his game to a higher level, giving up less than two goals a game and recording three shutouts to help the Senators beat each Eastern Conference opponent four games to one. At one point, Emery had a six-game winning streak overlapping the semifinals and finals.
As of June 5, the Anaheim Ducks lead the Stanley Cup Finals three games to one. After winning Game 3 for Ottawa and only allowing one goal in Game 2, the 24-year-old, second-year goalie has showed that he is continuing to raise his game as the stakes increase.
Emery is the latest Black player to gain notice for his skills, not just his skin tone. Current players like Jarome Iginla, Anson Carter and Mike Grier have found success on the ice - with Iginla the most notable as a three-time All-Star and former league scoring champion - as well as past greats like goalie Grant Fuhr, a five-time champion and the first Black player inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Before Emery, Fuhr was the last Black goalie to start in a Stanley Cup Final when he won his fifth championship in 1990.
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Emery got his start in junior hockey and was named Rookie of the Year in his league in 1999. The 2001-02 season was a breakout year for Emery as he won 33 games and was named Goaltender of the Year for the entire Canadian Hockey League.
That same year, he was drafted in the fourth round by the Senators. After playing two years of minor league hockey while appearing in six NHL games, he joined the Senators full-time in the 2005-06 season. He started his career by winning his first nine games, an NHL record, and then tied a NHL record in March 2006 by winning twelve games.
As a teammate, Emery has been known to do zany things such as eating a cockroach to win a $500 bet or randomly dying his hair platinum blond. He also has been noted for his unpredictable style, looking like Lenny Kravitz or Prince one day and Diddy or Denzel Washington the next.
Crazy? Maybe, but his on-ice reputation is more Charles Barkley than Gnarls Barkley.
Ever since his days in junior hockey, Emery has had a reputation as a fighter, an unusual trait for a goalie. A former boxer growing up who idolized Mike Tyson, he was involved in several junior hockey fights and played a key role in a memorable brawl back on February 22 against the Buffalo Sabres.
Emery fought Sabres goalie Martin Biron then he held his own against enforcer Andrew Peters despite Peters outweighing him by nearly 30 points and standing a few inches taller. The media dubbed him “Sugar Ray” after that fight and his reputation grew even more.
He once tried to wear a picture of Tyson on his goalie mask, but due to protests because of Tyson’s checkered past, he removed it after one game in favor of other boxers such as Marvin Hagler, Jack Johnson and Canadian heavyweight George Chuvalo.
Most goalies usually stay in the background and only gain fame for their play on the ice. But Emery is a different breed of goalie, one that matches his strong play on the ice with his flashy personality away from it. He is on his way become the next great Canadian goalie as well as establishing another Black face in the world of hockey.