As part of the NHL's celebration of Black History Month, NHL.com will highlight great moments and important figures in black hockey history each day throughout February. Pioneers like Willie O'Ree, Angela James and Grant Fuhr will be featured.
Today we look at goalie Ray Emery, who had a career resurgence with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Ray Emery had experienced ups (helping the Ottawa Senators reach the 2007 Stanley Cup Final) and downs (being waived by the Senators a year later, spending a season in Russia and nearly being forced to give up hockey because of a hip injury) as an NHL goalie when he came to the Chicago Blackhawks training camp on a tryout in September 2011. General manager Stan Bowman kept him because of his experience despite a shaky showing during the preseason.
Emery gave the Blackhawks just what Bowman wanted: a solid backup to Corey Crawford. He finished the 2011-12 season 15-9-4 (including 10-0-3 at home) with a 2.81 goals-against average. The Chicago chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated him for the Bill Masterton Trophy in recognition of his dedication and perseverance.
Emery was even better in 2012-13. He became the first NHL goalie to begin a season with 10 consecutive wins and finished 17-1-0 with a 1.94 GAA and a .922 save percentage. Emery and Crawford, who also had a 1.94 GAA, shared the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goalies whose team allows the fewest regular-season goals. Though Emery didn't play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, teammates saluted his contributions as the Blackhawks won their second championship in four seasons.
Emery signed with the Philadelphia Flyers as a free agent July 5, 2013, his second stint with them, which lasted two seasons. They were his final two in the NHL. He played in the American Hockey League and in Germany in 2015-16 before retiring. Emery drowned in a swimming accident July 15, 2018, in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario. He was 35.
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas knew Emery from junior hockey early in his career and the American Hockey League near the end.
"Ray's smile and intelligence made him a magnetic personality," he said. "You always rooted for him to reach his vast potential, even as he went through the many ups and downs of his playing career. "He will be missed."