Ray Emery, a talented and mercurial goaltender who played for four NHL teams over 11 seasons, drowned early Sunday while swimming at a yacht club in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He was 35.
Hamilton Police tweeted that Emery’s body was recovered from the city’s harbor shortly before 3 p.m., near where he was last seen approximately nine hours earlier. The Hamilton Spectator reported that Emery was with a group of people on a friend’s boat when they decided to jump in the water.
At 2:50 pm, HPS recovered the body of former @NHL player Ray Emery, 35. Emery was reported missing just after 6:00 am in #HamOnt harbour. His body was recovered in close proximity to where he was last seen. Family has been notified. Cause of death to be confirmed pending a PM.
“They went out for a swim and unfortunately he did not emerge after diving in,” Hamilton Police Inspector Martin Schulenberg told the Spectator. “Unfortunately, our efforts on the water and in the area just around the piers were met with negative results.”
Figures around the NHL were quick to react. One of Emery’s former teammates, James van Riemsdyk, tweeted: “So sad to hear the tragic news about Ray Emery- was a great teammate and person.” Another former teammate, Scott Hartnell, chimed in, “So sad to hear the news of Ray Emery. You will be missed bro!”
Former teammates lauded Emery’s mentorship and leadership, especially in his final professional season in the AHL in 2015-16. Enforcer-turned-analyst Paul Bissonnette, a teammate with the AHL’s Ontario (Calif.) Reign, said Emery would treat other players to dinner almost every night.”I’d heard nothing but great things before meeting him and it was true,” Bissonnette told The Associated Press. “He was awesome. Great in the locker room and just made life enjoyable.”
Emery’s last professional team, Germany’s Adler Mannheim, tweeted, “RIP, Razer!!”, a reference to his nickname.”Ray’s smile and intelligence made him a magnetic personality,” said Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, who knew Emery from junior hockey and the goalie’s stint with the American Hockey League’s Marlies. “You always rooted for him to reach his vast potential even as he went through the many ups and downs of his playing career.”
A Hamilton native, Emery was drafted by the Ottawa Senators with the 99th overall pick in 2001. In 2006-07, he led the Senators to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance, winning 33 of the 58 regular season games he started while posting a .918 save percentage and a 2.47 goals-against average.
But the most memorable moment from that season is Emery’s fight against Buffalo Sabres goalie Martin Biron, a scrap that earned him 22 penalty minutes — including not one, but two five-minute majors for fighting.
Emery struggled to control his temper and his career was marked by several confrontations with teammates and coaches. There was also an incident of road rage, assault of a trainer in Russia and behavior that led to him being sent home from Ottawa’s training camp.
The Senators waived Emery after the 2007-08 season and the rest of his tenure proved to be a journeyman’s existence that included stops in Russia, Philadelphia, Anaheim, Chicago, Philadelphia again and Germany. In addition to Ontario and Toronto, Emery also spent time with minor-league teams in Syracuse, N.Y.; Glens Falls, N.Y.; Binghamton, N.Y.There were moments of glory: Emery got his name on the Stanley Cup in 2013 as a member of the champion Chicago Blackhawks. In that lockout-shortened season, Emery went an astonishing 17-1 and set a record for the most consecutive wins by a goaltender to start a season (13).
That season, Emery and fellow Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford combined to win the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the league’s fewest goals and finished seventh in Vezina Trophy voting.
The achievement was all the more remarkable considering that four years earlier, Emery had been diagnosed with avascular necrosis, the same serious hip ailment that ended two-sport star Bo Jackson’s career.
This past September, Emery was arrested and accused of assaulting his ex-fiancee, singer Keshia Chante, over three months between July and September 2016. Emery was released on bail and it was not immediately clear how the matter was resolved.