Sports: Ray Emery’s Biggest Save

Think Michael Vick is the only athlete in town looking for redemption? Meet the Flyers’ new goalie — the T.O. of hockey

AFTER HIS HANG time with Joe Frazier, Emery sits down for lunch at Redstone American Grill in Marlton, and he’s as low-key as anyone driving a brand-new white Lamborghini convertible can be. Shorts and a Phillies cap instead of a flashy suit. No entourage. Not even a beer.

Emery agrees that complacency after the Stanley Cup finals was the root of his problems. “I didn’t work back from my surgery [after his wrist injury], and then I wasn’t playing,” he says. “I was pouting and wasn’t willing to do the work.” He was also feeling the pressure from the press, who reported on — and sometimes exaggerated — his every misstep. That wild night out with Snoop Dogg? “The concert started at eight, and we were home by 10:30 watching TV,” says his friend Schonfelder.

Russia, as it turned out, was a much–needed break from the spotlight, and a chance for Emery to concentrate on his game, not his image. There was just one -hiccup — a punch thrown at his team’s trainer suggesting that for all his self-reflection and humility, Emery hasn’t changed. “I had a bad game,” Emery says. “I got pulled, and they wanted me to wear a hat because it was cold in the rink. I’m like, no, dude. My job that day was to win that game. That’s it. After I completely fail at that, you might want to give me a couple minutes to relax, you know?”

Emery says he and the trainer laughed about it later on the team bus, not knowing that back home, a clip of the scrum was on TV and online, held up as evidence Emery was still a troublemaker. Emery isn’t bothered that a tussle over a hat will live forever on YouTube: “I’m not going to change from being an intense guy. That’s me.”

That’s also what the Flyers don’t want to lose. “Ray’s passionate,” says a team insider. “Will the coach be unhappy if Ray gets suspended for a couple games for fighting? Sure. But will the organization have a problem with it? Not really.” Philosophically and physically, the Flyers and Emery seem like a match made in hockey heaven.

Away from the rink, Emery says he’s grown up since his implosion in Ottawa. “Looking back, that affected everything in my life. I didn’t correlate my relationship with my parents to me working hard in practice. My mom’s crying on the phone, and basically it’s because I wasn’t working hard. It was just a big snowball. I was disappointed with myself, especially when John Paddock got fired. I hurt him, and I felt bad about that. When one of your friends gets an opportunity to do something he loves, and loses it because of you, it makes you look in the mirror a bit.”

It’s hard not to wonder if such Dr. Phil-style self-reflection is for real, or if Emery’s a smart guy saying what people want to hear. He convinced the Flyers, but only enough for them to give him a one-year deal. Those who know him say in many ways, Emery hasn’t changed — he’s still Razor, the intellectual in a goalie mask, the heavyweight between the pipes, and, once again, the underdog.