Sports: Ray Emery’s Biggest Save

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A WEEK LATER, after a morning workout at the Flyers’ practice rink in Voorhees, it’s Emery’s turn to play wide-eyed kid in the presence of an idol. Joe Frazier has stopped by for a chat at Emery’s dressing room locker, and Emery can’t stop smiling. It’s a -photo op orchestrated by the Flyers for some preseason press and because Emery is a notorious boxing fan. Goalies personalize their masks, and his usually feature fighters. Smartly, the one he’ll wear with the Flyers is covered with homegrown legends — Bernard Hopkins on the left, Smokin’ Joe Frazier on the right, and, on the back, Rocky, draped in the American flag. Frazier, looking at his own image on Emery’s lid, isn’t impressed.

“I look like a Chinese man.”

“You have to blame the painter for that,” Emery says with a laugh, his accent betraying his Canadian roots. “I think it looks pretty good, no?”

At six-foot-two, Emery is a lean and muscular 205 pounds, with jagged lines tattooed down his right arm like shattered glass, from shoulder to wrist. Since coming to Philadelphia, Emery hasn’t scrapped with anyone, or shown signs of the controversy that’s followed him here. With Frazier, as with most people, he’s soft-spoken and polite. (“It’s an honor to meet you,” he says as the two shake hands goodbye.) He bonded quickly with his teammates, joining them for Green Day and Weezer concerts, and at Center City happy hours. After Frazier leaves, Emery breaks out a hip-hop move to get a laugh out of the team’s equipment manager. Dancing With the Stars is probably not in his future.

This Ray Emery stands in sharp contrast to the fiery young goaltender from Hamilton, Ontario, who turned heads in the minors. His childhood handle, “Razor,” was simply a play on his first name. On the ice, it carried a different meaning, as Emery became known for his edgy style of play and an inclination to drop his gloves. In his three seasons with Ottawa’s developmental team, Emery was named an All-Star, but was also suspended three times — once for bumping a ref and twice for fights, prompting a trip to an anger management course. Emery insists that his competitive spirit, not some pent-up rage, is what ignites the powder keg inside him. “I’m intense,” he says. “I’d be that kid, chilling with my buddies. But if there’s a game, we’d get into a fight, then everybody cools off. I don’t like to fail. It’s not that I really enjoy winning. It’s that I hate losing.”

As a teenager, Emery was a three-sport athlete who also scored a 1300 on his SATs, and considered studying architecture in college instead of playing hockey. “He excelled in school, and his teachers told me right from the start, ‘Ray can do anything he wants. He has the ability, mentally and physically,’” says Emery’s mother, Charlene. “But sometimes he’s his own worst enemy.”