I had a rather drawn out discussion on a message board about the nature of redemption, or at least how realistic it is to expect anyone to redeem themselves. The discussion arose around the subject of Ray Emery and his return to hockey.
I first read about him while perusing the Flyers roster last year. There he was, still listed on their roster, on injured reserve. He played his last game with them sometime last Fall or Winter. His injury was the reason for Leighton’s arrival on the scene.
The article they had linked there included a fairly grim portrait of his medical prognosis. In the off season, his contract expired, there was not even a whisper of anyone signing him. All signs were that the NHL considered him done. It seems that most medical opinion would have concurred. Nonetheless, he persisted with his physical rehab.
Now he has been signed by the Ducks for their AHL team. There are no immediate plans for him to come up to the NHL soon. He has made it clear he needs time to get up to that level. Helene Elliot recently published an article detailing the arrangement. I like the title: Ray Emery appreciates new lease on his hockey life after hip surgery.
It isn’t the first new lease on hockey he has gotten. His brief stint with the Flyers was also a second chance.
How much does a person have to do to merit a second or third chance? Does fate care? It certainly didn’t care that he was ready to clean up his act when he came back to the NHL. Nope, whatever penance he did in the KHL did not impress the fates. He thought things were tough in Russia? There was more in store for him.
To be fair, he did not call his time in Russia a punishment, just a wake up call. He even continued some of his antics over there that got him there. Still, he wanted to come back, he wanted to change. He was trying.
Why would the fates have it in for him? I don’t know, as far as I can tell the fates do what they want, no matter what you do. But it is hard to ignore the fact that he wasted years misbehaving, got fired, exiled, and returned to have a second chance cut short by something really serious. Something a lot more serious than wild spoiled overpaid self indulgence and temper tantrums. The behavior and the hip problem are not related. We hardly ever get what we deserve when it comes to health issues. But if ever someone had paid his dues, for crimes committed and imagined, I think Emery has now. I really hope he can pull it off.
I like stories about older players persisting (Roloson), or players who can’t catch a break finally catching one (Leighton). Those are easy stories to like. Those guys make easy protagonists to like.
But what about a guy who makes a lot of dumb mistakes, is written off for being a hopeless case, yet manages to claw his way back into the light? How can you not root for that guy too?
You don’t have to. You don’t have to want a guy to get back to being grossly overpaid for a doing completely unnecessary job. You don’t have to care about someone who did not appreciate his good fortune or respect it enough to take proper care of it when he had the chance. But I sort of want to. He had the fame and fortune handed to him once. He dropped it on a wet sidewalk and only later realized it was missing.
Now he will have to fight tooth and claw to find it again. He may not find it. His hip might not hold up. He might become too impatient, give up. He might. Or he might prove that he is every bit as crazy as anyone thought he was. That crazy edge that caused him so much grief before might pull him through now.
I like the symmetry of that story. I would like it to turn out that way. When prejudice and the practical odds are aligned against you, the only thing left might be your pride. Of course, a little mercy from the fates would be good too. Here’s hoping Emery makes this a really good story.