ST. LOUIS --
When the news of the passing of boxing great Joe Frazier came down, it touched many lives, including that of Chicago Blackhawks
goalie Ray Emery
Frazier, who died Monday from liver cancer, had many fans all over the globe, but Emery is one that carried Frazier with him to the rink every day.
Emery, who has played for the Ottawa Senators
, Philadelphia Flyers
, Anaheim Ducks
and now the Blackhawks, had a depiction of Frazier and fellow boxing great Bernard Hopkins on his goalie mask. They were caricatures that stayed with him all through his career that Emery was proud to display.
"Those guys for the most part kind of had a tough, tough go of it as far as the sport goes," Emery said. "I think it's a good thing how the sport's progressed now as far as head injuries and things like that. They kind of take better care of their athletes now."
Emery, who took an interest in boxing when he was young, met the 67-year-old Frazier while he was playing with the Flyers.
"(Frazier) ended up coming out to the practice rink one day and hung out with us a bit," Emery said. "I had a chance to play around with him.
"When I was a kid, I boxed just a bit. It was more of an introduction thing, and then when I was 15 or 16, I picked it back up for a couple more years. I did it as more of a training thing. I was interested in it, but I was more of a fan of it. It was a pretty big sport with (Mike) Tyson and (Evander) Holyfield and all that stuff."
Emery boxed when he was younger but is more of a historian of the sport. He studied it and became a fan.
"I was pretty interested in it when I played in Philly," Emery said. "I realized that Frazier and Hopkins came from there, trained there.
"That year in Philly, I had Frazier and Hopkins on my mask. I studied what he had done with the sport. Those old rivalries with him and (Muhammad) Ali ... those were some great moments. I had seen some of his fights just in studying them. It was cool to me. He's kind of a larger-than-life personality and character and was still involved in boxing and frequently was in that tiny gym that he trained in years past. It was a cool experience."
Just like many, Emery was somber when hearing of Frazier's passing.
"It's sad to see him go," Emery said. "Guys like that, they were big athletes, but they were big, political athletes as well. It was more than a sport back then. I was definitely interested in him and it was a pleasure to meet him."