Ottawa

Beyond the Razor's edge

The sports world largely remembers the late Ray Emery as a talented but erratic presence both on and off the ice. Andrew Emery remembers his brother differently.

What was the real Ray Emery like? We asked the late NHL goalie's brother

Brothers Andrew, left, and Ray Emery celebrate together after the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup victory in 2013. (Andrew Emery)

For Andrew Emery, then a young undergraduate at the University of Ottawa, having a big brother on the city's NHL team had its ups and downs.

Ray Emery, the Senators' fiery, show-stopping goalie, was in the news a lot those days, and not always for the right reasons.

"I'd be walking down the streets of Ottawa, and I would see on the newspaper his face, and you wouldn't know why," Andrew, now 30, recalled. "It was either good or bad … and you'd go, 'Oh, oh no. Please be good."

Often, it wasn't. Ray had been late for practice. Ray was clashing with coaches. Ray had crashed his infamous white Hummer and missed a team flight. Rumours of substance abuse swirled.

Ray Emery makes a save during NHL Eastern Conference final action between the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres on May 10, 2007. The Senators would go on to the Stanley Cup final that year. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Emery had just helped the team to the 2007 Stanley Cup final, but his star was falling fast. Soon, he was demoted to backup status, and a year after signing him to a $9.5-million contract, the Sens bought him out.

He'd prove everyone wrong, of course, returning to the NHL and recovering from hip surgery that would have sidelined most athletes for good, then earning a Stanley Cup ring with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 before his pro hockey career came to a close.

Then, in the early morning hours of July 15, 2018, Ray Emery jumped from a friend's boat into Hamilton Harbour and never resurfaced. His body was pulled from the water eight hours later. Police chalked his death up to "misadventure."

He was 35.

Andrew, left, and Ray Emery, in downtown Toronto. (Andrew Emery)

Overwhelming grief

Now, eight months later, Andrew Emery says the family — mom Sharlene, dad Paul and brother Nick — continues to struggle with the loss.

"Every once in a while it will be hard, but not as often anymore," Andrew told CBC's All In A Day. "My whole family's doing better."

But then, in an instant, the grief can overwhelm.

"I was filling out some sort of application … and it said, how many brothers do you have? I didn't know what to say," he said, breaking down. "It sucks to be upset all the time, so I like to talk about other things."

Ray Emery played for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009-2010, and again from 2013-2015. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

The brothers weren't always on the same page. Andrew, who describes himself as "a Christian kid," disapproved of Ray's choice in music.

"He would be in his Hummer … and he would be blaring rap music that I would think was inappropriate," Andrew said.

When Ray helped Andrew move from Toronto to Ottawa in the fall of 2017 to set up his Metcalfe Street law practice, the two brothers disagreed over how to move a dresser: Ray insisted the drawers should be removed, but Andrew thought it more efficient to lift it contents and all.

"I was very thankful, but we would argue about little things," Andrew said.

Ray Emery's brother Andrew says many people had heartwarming stories to tell about Emery's time in the NHL. 1:00

Race rarely discussed

There were bigger differences that somehow seemed to matter less. Ray, who had a different biological father than his brothers, was the only biracial member of the Emery clan. 

But Andrew said his big brother didn't like to talk about race, and said it never mattered to him, either.

"It was very rarely a topic of conversation," he said. "Growing up, I didn't even really know he was a different colour. I could actually say like Grade 8 was the first time where I said, 'Huh, he doesn't look exactly like me.' And I only knew it because somebody from school made fun of it, actually, and asked if he'd been out in the sun too long. And I said, 'What do you mean by that?'"

Ray Emery, right, and then Senators forward Jason Spezza speak to reporters during the Eastern Conference finals in 2007. (The Associated Press)

When sports writers remember Ray Emery, it's often for his allegedly mercurial temper. They use phrases such as "talented but volatile."

But Andrew Emery doesn't remember his brother as an angry person.

"I wouldn't say he was angry," Andrew said. "I guess you would think he was angry, but you don't know him…. You just see the hockey Ray."

Loved a good scrap

That doesn't mean he didn't like a good scrap.

"He liked to fight, which was one of his things, but I would say that was more fun," Andrew said.

Andrew was in Buffalo for one of his brother's most memorable hockey moments — the February 2007 line brawl between the Senators and Sabres that saw "Razor" rip off his mask and take on opposing netminder Martin Biron, a grin planted firmly on his face the whole time.

"He was happy afterwards. Like, that was just for fun," Andrew recalled. 

Former Senators goalie Ray Emery takes on the Sabres' Andrew Peters in a line brawl during a 2007 NHL regular-season game. Emery had just finished fighting Buffalo goalie Martin Biron. (The Associated Press)

Ray didn't talk much about his post-NHL plans, Andrew said.

"He was just kind of taking a break…. To me, he didn't have much of a plan, yet."

Random acts of kindness

While many were concentrating on Ray Emery's misfortunes, including a much-publicized breakup with Canadian singer Keshia Chanté, Andrew kept hearing stories about his brother's random acts of kindness — how Ray had spent an hour talking hockey with a fan, how he'd let a complete stranger take his Lamborghini for a spin, how he'd gone out of his way to chat up a shy kid at an event for disadvantaged youth. The day before he died, he'd been participating in a charity hockey game.

"Things like that. He tried to take memories for people," Andrew said.

About three months before he died, Ray Emery accompanied his mother to church for her birthday — something he hadn't done in years.

"It was very important to her," Andrew said. "He would always do stuff for us."

Andrew Emery at his Metcalfe Street law office. (Mario Carlucci/CBC)

In October, the Emerys were invited to the Canadian Tire Centre to witness a pre-game tribute to Ray. When the minute-long video showed the Biron fight, the crowd rose to its feet once again. One of Emery's best friends, former Senators captain Jason Spezza, visiting with his new team, the Dallas Stars, was clearly moved. Emery's ex-fiancée, Keshia Chanté, sang the anthems.

"It was awesome," Andrew Emery said. "At one point I felt like Ottawa didn't like him … but now I think everyone likes him again. I think Ottawa loves him now."

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