Tuesday, 29 January 2008

For Sale: Goaltender - Real Cheap

There seems to be a serious problem within the ranks of Canada's most successful team thus far this season. It reared its ugly head earlier in the season when Ray Emery decided he could show up for practice at whatever time he felt like. He was promptly told to leave the ice, threw a temper tantrum, and then apologized to his teammates for what could only be described as "child-like behaviour". He swore it would never happen again, and yet here we are after the All-Star Break and Emery has once again been told not to set foot on the ice after showing up late for practice.

Look, it's one thing to be a Stanley Cup winner and walking your own path. Tom Barrasso seemingly did that after winning the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. His erratic behaviour and off-the-wall demeanor only got worse as team after team sent him packing. However, Emery has not won a Stanley Cup, and has only led his team to one Stanley Cup Final appearance during his NHL career thus far.

There have been players who have climbed the mountain to be the best at their positions, and have decided that fitting into the norm wasn't for them. Ed Belfour won multiple personal accolades in his career, including the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goaltender, yet Belfour has been the subject of police mugshots more than once. However, I don't remember Ray Emery winning anything yet.

Let me be clear: what Barrasso and Belfour did are by no means acceptable ways to act as a professional athlete and role model. I am not justifying their actions, but rather merely stating that sometimes one gets caught up in one's hype. It appears that Ray Emery, who spent the All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas, may have bought into his own hype way too early in his own career.

On Monday, Emery showed up four minutes after practice had started at the New York Islanders' training facility. Emery explained that he was late because he thought the practice was at Nassau Coliseum and not the practice facility. It was Ottawa's first practice since the All-Star Break.

I can't comment on how Ray Emery runs his life. I don't know if he owns a calendar, a day planner, a personal digital assistant, a Blackberry, or a pen, but I do know that when you're being paid millions of dollars to play a game, you show up on time when the coach says so. There is no question of "what do I want to do" because it affects 23 other guys.

I get paid to show up on time at work, or I get reprimanded. They expect me to be there to do my job, and not to waltz in whenever I feel like it. If it happens once, I'm getting my rear end hauled into my manager's office for a "discussion". If it happens twice, I'm looking at a suspension or, possibly, unemployment. I don't know what Ray Emery is thinking, but apparently the Ottawa Senators are like Club Med to him.

December 28, 2007 was the first incident of him showing up for a practice late. Emery was late twice for team flights last season. He was involved in a fender bender prior to Ottawa's second round playoff game against the New Jersey Devils that had him in a little hot water. Emery was rushing to the airport to catch the team's flight to New Jersey. Emery was uninjured in the accident, but signed autographs after the incident, and missed the team charter and was forced to take a commercial flight as a result. During the off-season, Emery was involved in another car accident which saw him engaged in a case of "road rage" against an elderly driver. That incident nearly had him facing a lawsuit.

The December incident of being late saw Emery send water bottles flying by slamming them with his stick. He left the ice looking quite angry, and was sent home as a result of it. Less than two weeks later, Emery and teammate Brian McGrattan were involved in a fight during practice. While both men joked that it was nothing serious, Emery's antics have clearly begun to annoy some of his teammates, and the man who gave him his three-year, $9.5 million contract.

"He doesn't seem to realize at times that he's under a microscope," said GM Bryan Murray on December 30, 2007. "If he's late for a minute at practice, it's written about every day. Some other players would be excused. He's not right now.

"We just ask him to be there when he's supposed to be there, practise when he's supposed to practise, do as well as he can, and his talent will step forward. We know that."

Ray Emery was fined one day's pay, or in the vicinity of $14,705.88, for his latest show of tardiness. According to the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement, this was the maximum fine that the Senators could impose on their goaltender.

It is contained in what's called Exhibit 14, Form of Standard Club Rules.

On the matter of missing practice, section 3(b) reads as follows: Any player who missed a scheduled practice without valid and pre-approved permission will be fined 1/187 (the number of days in the regular season) of his NHL salary.

While I don't think it's time to characterize Ray Emery as a cancer on the Ottawa Senators, it's clear that his immature antics have to stop. The 25 year-old netminder has a long career ahead of him yet, especially if he can get himself straight. Will that career be with Ottawa? GM Bryan Murray didn't put any fires out.

"I certainly have talked to some teams about goaltending," he explained. "At this moment, most teams feel satisfied with their goaltending, so there isn't any opportunity at the moment. The option is to leave him at home and not let him play and I don't know if I want to do that at this point in time."

Whatever the case may be, Ray Emery needs to grow up. Whether he be traded or remains in Ottawa, his behaviour clearly has to change. His teammates and management have suggested as much, and there isn't a GM not named Mike Milbury who would trade for a guy that comes with as much baggage as Emery is carrying.

It's time to be a professional athlete, Ray Emery. You're paid like one. Accept the role of being professional as fast as you accept your pay. And stop acting like a spoiled brat.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Sherry said...

I can't comment on how Ray Emery runs his life. I don't know if he owns a calendar, a day planner, a personal digital assistant, a Blackberry, or a pen

A pen? Unheard of! (That cracked me up by the way).

You know the best comment I've heard in regards to this? Yesterday on Hardcore Hockey Talk with Steve Kouleas, Kouly talked about how his behaviour was upsetting to not only the organization but also that his mother was displeased with him right now and the only reason he's saying that is because he knows it's true and that Ray knows it too. I think MamaEmery needs to lay down the law.

Steph said...

Hemingway would be proud of your post title :P

(As for Emery...you just gotta wonder if he realizes he will SO not get away with this forever. Nobody wants to put up with a petulant child when they could likely find themselves someone willing to act professional...or even if they couldn't.)

Teebz said...

Sherry - I thought the pen was appropriate since all it takes is a note or something written on his hand to remember. ;o) And MamaEmery should have a stern talk with her son.

Steph - I fully agree. Spoiled brats are not tolerated for very long. Let's hope he can screw his head on right, and get himself back to being a #1 goalie.