Being exiled to Russia is generally viewed as punishment; but for ex-NHL goaltender Ray Emery it provided a chance to enjoy the game of hockey again.
“I am focused on hockey and that is why I am there,” Emery told Hockeycentral@Noon on Wednesday. The current Atlant Mytishchi goaltender is back in Canada for the holidays. “I remember playing junior and it was fun. In the last couple years it hasn’t been like that and it is just refreshing to have those good times again. It’s been a lot of laughs and not a lot of the walking on eggs shells stuff.”
Emery joked to co-hosts Daren Millard and Nick Kypreos that he felt “kicked out” of the NHL after a tumultuous season in Ottawa that saw him make headlines for being late and fighting with teammates when he did show up. The 29-year-old Emery led Ottawa to a Stanley Cup final in 2007 before being reduced to a back up the next season.
“I made my bed there (in Ottawa). Last year I really didn’t want to play at certian times and I made a bad situation for myself. But I learned my lesson,” Emery said. “I made the mistakes and I am not going to make them again.”
Emery is the leading vote-getter for Team Jagr in the inaugural Continental Hockey League (KHL) All-Star Game. The game, like the 2009 Winter Classic in Chicago, will be played outdoors in Moscow’s Red Square on Jan. 10, 2009.
Emery signed a two-year deal with an opt-out clause to return to the NHL after the first season but has no plans to use the renewed attitude and success as a stepping stone back to North America.
“I am about 80-20 to stay in Russia,” Emery said of his future. “I can play in the NHL, but right now I made a commitment to the team and win with the team that I am on.”
The KHL consists of 21 teams in Russia and three others in Latvia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. The league has already lured a handful of Russian-born NHL players back home with the promise of million-dollar contracts and just 13 per cent federal tax. Emery took the bait as a single man, but is unsure the league can compete with the lifestyle players enjoy back home.
“They definitely have deep pockets and they are getting better cities in the league. They are definitely making steps to make a challenge (to the NHL), but are they going to get the guys with families? I don’t know if that is happening. But there might be two-or three less players on a NHL team in the future.”