I recently returned from a couple of weeks in cottage country, where the beef on the barbie wasn’t the only thing burning.
It really got my blood boiling to read that Ray Emery was reduced to taking a job in Russia; and I’ve been itching to sound off about it.
Let me get this straight: Here’s a guy who backstopped the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup final two years ago, and now he’s been forced to slurp Borscht and play for a team with an Alphabet Soup-style moniker, Atlant Mytishchi. (“Don’t worry, Comrade Ray. It’s just like Atlanta, except for the missing “a” and the nightlife.”)
Actually, a lack of nightlife would probably serve Emery well, as he makes no secret of the fact that he likes to have a good time. You hear a lot of talk in cyberspace that Emery may have a problem with substance abuse. But while acknowledging that Senators management has quizzed him on the issue, Emery claims it’s all just a bunch of cheap gossip.
So, besides unsubstantiated rumours, what grave sins has Emery committed?
He showed up late for some practices, was upset about not playing enough and had a few minor traffic mishaps.
First off, to quote basketball’s Allen Iverson after he was ripped for his practice habits a few years ago, “Practice? We’re talkin’ about practice?”
The fact is, a lot of goalies hate practice and will do almost anything to avoid serving as a human target for a bunch of head-hunters armed with a bucket of pucks. Gerry Cheevers, for instance, was notorious for his creative excuses and tried everything short of delivering a “The dog ate my mask” note to the coach.
Regarding Emery pouting on the bench, coaches are always delivering that well-worn cliché about how they’d rather have a guy upset about not playing as opposed to someone who’s happy about it.
And as far as adventures in driving are concerned, Emery isn’t even in the same league as yours truly. Heck, a few days before getting hitched I ran a red light and totalled my car because of a nervous mind that was focused on walking down the aisle.
So, why are the rules different for Ray?
In my opinion, there’s a hint of racism in the air. Canada is becoming more multi-cultural by the day, especially in major cities. But for the most part, the hockey culture is still predominantly white and many NHL power brokers grew up in a Canada that was completely different. Unlike their compatriots in the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball, NHL general managers don’t have any experience dealing with the Allen Iverson’s of the sports world. Many black people have their own distinct culture and when a guy like Emery walks into a dressing room with his flashy clothes and hip-hop spirit, some hockey people tend to raise their eyebrows.
Don’t get me wrong; the NHL isn’t guilty of overt racism. But I believe there is something bubbling below the surface that needs to be discussed in an open forum such as this blog. For one thing, it should be pointed out that Emery definitely could have handled certain situations better and has, in fact, admitted making some mistakes. But there are lots of NHL’ers guilty of errors in judgement that had much more dire outcomes. Mark Bell, Todd Bertuzzi and Dany Heatley are just some of the players who have found themselves in various forms of hot water. However, they were all afforded a second chance in the blink of an eye and the last time I checked, none of them were receiving their mail in Moscow.
Sure, Emery will still make a boat load of cash playing in Russia.
But all the money in the world doesn’t change a situation that needs to be addressed.